by DAVID AXE
To protect its vessels transiting the Indian Ocean from increasingly aggressive Somali pirates, in 2008 shipping firm Maersk hired a Tanzanian navy patrol boat and its crew. (Kenyan patrol boat pictured.) That move was only recently reported. “It’s a temporary solution that a shipper has hired a warship from another country, but there’s no alternative,” Jan Fritz Hansen, vice-president of the Danish Shipowners’ Association, told a reporter.
It was neither the first nor last time a shipper hired mercs to fight pirates. Usually the security personnel ride aboard the vessel they’re protecting. Hiring an escort vessel represents a rare private convoy. It’s no accident that many Tanzanian military personnel are trained in China: the Chinese also form convoys to protect Beijing’s shipping interests from pirates, whereas the U.S. and European model relies on independent navy patrols protecting a shipping corridor.
Tanzanian sailors have also benefited from American expertise. A year ago the U.S. Navy frigate Robert G. Bradley visited Tanzania in part to train up local forces in counter-piracy operations.
Merc firm Blackwater, a.k.a. “Xe,” tried to get into the pirate-killing’ bizness in 2007 when it outfitted a small vessel, McArthur, with a helicopter pad, medical bay and weapons facilities. The Blackwater navy never scored a contract, perhaps owing to its worsening reputation for unethical behavior. Springbored at U.S. Naval Institute Blog celebrated when Blackwater put its vessel on sale in Spain, calling McArthur a “platform that just was inappropriate for the job.”
Blogger Galrahn defended the use of mercs in the piracy fight:
There is a slow but deliberate escalation taking place in regards to piracy off the coast of Africa, and the absence of a political solution by global political leaders is prompting the gigantic shipping industry to take matters in their own hands.
But the hiring of a formal navy as mercs has got one expert worried. “Long-term, it’s a dangerous development because it will make poor African countries reliant on private companies’ money to run their militaries,” said Lars Bangert Struwe from the Danish Institute for Military Studies.
(Photo: The Citizen)
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