Why be a pirate? Understanding motivations for piracy

Following primary research recently conducted at Montagne Posse Prison, Seychelles, little has changed behind the drivers to commit maritime crime. To prevent piracy, a more nuanced approach to understanding the behaviour might be key to a solution.

Maritime crime, piracy and Somalia have become seen as synonymous in East Africa’s geopolitical narrative following years of prolific and highly profitable hijack for ransom activity of vessels in the Indian Ocean. Attacks have abated over the recent past, but the motivators to attack and seize a vessel remain unchanged. Arguably the intervention of international navies, the adoption of vessel protection measures and some resumption of the rule of law ashore have created an environment of prevention, but not necessarily a cure.

With special access to the Montagne Posse Prison, Seychelles in March 2017, courtesy of the Seychelles Minister for Home Affairs, M&C Saatchi World Services determined to find out why young Somalis commit Maritime Crime. M&C Saatchi World Services, like its parent company, is in the ‘persuasion business’; one that adapts established advertising communication principles into behavioural change programmes within fragile and conflict-affected states. In commercial advertising, understanding the audience is crucial; therefore gaining an appreciation of the factors that motivate young Somali men to put to sea, and motivate Somali societies to tolerate such behaviour, is critical in our opinion, to changing attitudes and behaviours towards maritime crime in the very communities that nurture it.

Understanding the motivations to engage in piracy

In a series of Focus Group Discussions and In-depth Interviews it was discovered that piracy is driven by a series of ‘push’ factors: a lack of opportunity on-shore, lack of faith in Government and Security Forces to protect the Somali fishing industry and ‘pull’ factors, such as unparalleled economic possibilities, active role in fighting against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and an active role in defending Somali territorial waters. None of these factors are unexpected, or indeed revelatory since they are in line with previous research conducted by UNODC and OBP and academics.

In a society that has little faith in central government and its ability to impose a rule of law, a locally acceptable narrative has been built. While Somalis polled by M&C Saatchi in 2015 confirmed that they understood that piracy was wrong, illegal and haram, a vast majority noted that their community tolerated piracy. The justification given, and repeated by the imprisoned pirates in 2017, was that young men put to sea armed as a means of defending Somali waters and ‘fighting’ foreigners engaged in illegal fishing. The internal narrative for the Somalis involved in piracy is that they only board ships that are either stealing fish or dumping waste. Other vessels boarded are a form of ‘collateral damage’. There are deep flaws in this philosophy that show up under the slightest scrutiny, but without an external push to consider them, the Somalis remain within a locally generated understanding of the situation that casts them as the victims with little alternative.

The potential for enormous reward is undoubtedly the major draw for young pirates. Consideration of the potential risks is fleeting and ill-informed. Our research found that while family separation, brought about by imprisonment, weighs heavily on the imprisoned pirates, they made it clear that, upon release, they would be willing to return to sea as soon as an opportunity presented itself. The potential rewards still outweigh the many risks.The narrative amongst the pirates (and their families and communities) appears at odds to the broader understanding of the international community. For the imprisoned Somali pirates, their Government has failed to secure the waters in which the Somalis have traditionally fished, IUU fishing is seen as an area of direct physical combat, and the prisoners believe that Foreign Naval Forces have taken the opposing side. In their view, the hijacking of vessels is entirely justified.

The narrative amongst the pirates (and their families and communities) appears at odds to the broader understanding of the international community. For the imprisoned Somali pirates, their Government has failed to secure the waters in which the Somalis have traditionally fished, IUU fishing is seen as an area of direct physical combat, and the prisoners believe that Foreign Naval Forces have taken the opposing side. In their view, the hijacking of vessels is entirely justified.

Why experience from violent extremism can help

M&C Saatchi’s experience of changing attitudes and behaviours in the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) domain transfers across to the counter piracy challenge seamlessly. Using culturally appropriate media channels to reach in to local communities and affect change is an irreplaceable requirement if a long-term ‘cure’ is sought for the piracy problem. Communities need to reject pirates in the same manner that they are currently being persuaded to reject extremism.

Some CVE practitioners propose interventions to Violent Extremism across three key areas: understanding the Structural Motivators: repression, corruption, unemployment, inequality, discrimination, and the history of friction between stakeholders, identifying Individual Incentives, where a sense of purpose, adventure, belonging, acceptance, status and material enticements are challenged. And lastly knowing the Enabling Factors, to challenge narratives and ideologies on social networks, the access to hardware and weaponry, a comparative lack of state presence, an absence of familial support, and so on.

It is suggested that communications change programmes (interventions), based on established Target Audience Analysis research could be applied to the motivators, incentives and factors surrounding Maritime Crime and Piracy. In the absence of challenging the current misaligned perceptions, young Somali men will continue to believe that piracy is not only a valid risk/reward sum, but also akin to a moral duty to protect their communities from outsiders; it should be our moral duty to persuade them otherwise.

About the Author

Zamzam Tatu is a Senior Analyst at M&C Saatchi World Services, Nairobi, Kenya

Source: Piracy-studies.org


Ship Explodes Off Somalia

An explosion has been heard off the coast of Somalia which observers say could have come from a foreign naval vessel.

Flames and smoke were also seen off Somalia’s Puntland coast around sunset on Monday.

The ship is believed to have been a naval vessel, as two foreign navy ships  helped rescue the crew. The cause of the blast is unknown as is the state of damage on the vessel, which may have sunk.

Abdi Jama, a resident of Muranyo village near Alula, told Reuters the vessel had been in the area for two days before the explosion occurred. He claims to have seen a helicopter land and take off again from the vessel some time before the explosion.

The region, near Alula in Puntland, is frequently patrolled by the European Union Naval forces to disrupt piracy and protect vulnerable shipping, including World Food Program vessels.

However, one media outlet has hypothesized that the explosion may have been from the tanker Rama 2. One of the 14 crew remains missing.

EUNAVFOR has tweeted that its vessels are not involved.

Source: Maritime Executive


BIMCO – SAPU Roadshows in Hamburg, Athens and Limassol.

Mr. Gordon Robertson, Deputy Director (Claims) Greece of The North of England P&I , will be one of the panelists.

Mr. Robertson joined North in June 2009 and handles admiralty, cargo and pollution matters.

He has degrees in naval architecture and ocean engineering from the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde and trained as a solicitor in London with Shaw and Croft, latterly HBJ Gateley Wareing. Mr. Robertson moved to the Piraeus office of North in 2011 and successfully completed the International Group P&I Qualification as part of the pilot group in 2013.

Throughout his time with North he has been involved assisting Members with the employment of armed guards and the issues this has raised.



BIMCO – SAPU Roadshows in Hamburg, Athens and Limassol.

Mr. Carl Wrede, Quality Manager & DPA of E.R. Schiffahrt GmbH & Cie. KG, will be one of the panelists.

Mr. Carl Wrede joined E.R. Schiffahrt’s shore organization in 2013 after having sailed onboard container ships of the company before.

His current function as the container fleet’s DPA and CSO of the company allows him a holistic approach to the safety and security challenges he needs to address.
He has been engaged in the training of fire fighters ashore and has been a fire fighter in various positions himself for a number of years before he started his career at sea.
He holds a MSc in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management from the University of Leicester, UK and a BSc in Nautical Science from the University of Applied Science Flensburg, Ger.
He defined the current security policy of the company and is overseeing their implementation in daily operations.Doing so made him a strong believer in information sharing.

He sees the need for an industry wide exchange of best practices in order to provide seafarers with a safe and secure working environment on board.


BIMCO – SAPU Roadshows in Hamburg, Athens and Limassol.

Capt. Panagiotis Nikiteas, PGDip, MSc, MEd, HSQE Manager / DPA / CSOof CSO of Anangel Maritime Services Inc., will be one of the panelists.

Capt. Panagiotis Nikiteas is maritime professional with 29 years’ experience span in various sectors of the maritime industry including management, marine, vetting, operations, crewing, safety, quality, environmental, security, health, surveying, incident investigation and training. He had been stationed and worked abroad in Manila, Dubai and Singapore and appreciated the benefits of multi-cultural working environment.

He is holding Master’s Degree in Adult Education, Master’s degree in International Shipping with distinction, Post Graduate Diploma in International Shipping and Transport Management and is a graduate form Hydra Merchant Marine Academy with distinction.

Capt. Panagiotis Nikiteas is the HSQE manager / DPA / CSO of Anangel Maritime Services Inc.



Pirates steal oil from Thai tanker

Diesel siphoned from vessel as crew held on deck off Malaysia.

A Thai tanker has been boarded and robbed of oil off Malaysia.

Thai media said the 4,000-dwt C.P. 41 (built 1998) was raided on 23 June, citing the Thai navy.

Crew were rounded up and held on deck while six or seven men siphoned off 1.5m litres (9,400 barrels) of diesel before escaping.

The seafarers are reported to be safe, while the tanker has returned to Thailand.

The vessel’s security alert system was destroyed and valuable were also stolen.

The tanker was carrying 3m litres of oil from Malaysia to Songkhla.

The Thai navy has asked its Malaysian counterpart to try to hunt down the pirates.

C.P. 41 is operated by CP & Co of Thailand.

Source: Tradewinds


BIMCO – SAPU Roadshows in Hamburg, Athens and Limassol.

Mr. Jens M. Priess, Vice President, Head of FDD Skuld Hamburg will be one of the panelists.

Jens M. Priess is a German qualified lawyer who joined Skuld Hamburg as Head of FDD in late 2009.

Before joining Skuld, Jens had worked in international law firms out of Hamburg and London and also another IG Club, based in the UK.

He is a supporting Member of the LMAA, a full Member of the GMAA and also on the board of DVIS, the German section of the CMI.


BIMCO – SAPU Roadshows in Hamburg, Athens and Limassol.

Mr. Mark Sutcliffe, Director of CSO Alliance Maritime, will be one of the panelists.

After six years in the British Army with the Royal Hussars (PWO), I spent two years working on the docks of Hartlepool and Bristol starting off as a tally clerk.
I then spent 22 years evenly spread between blue chip companies, Gearbulk, GAC and Wilh Wilhelmsen where I was invited to join the board of Wilhelmsen Lines Car Carries in Southampton.
I observed the growing global threat of maritime crime and the increasing pressure Company Security Officers work under.
I realized I could do something to help CSOs and found great support from the CSO community, so we assembled a team, backed our instincts, which resulted in the delivery of CSO Alliance.



On the trail of the ghost ships

Timothy Compston discovers that more and more ships are turning off their AIS (Automatic Identification System) or even switching their identities completely to sail under the security radar.

When employed properly AIS (Automatic Identification System), which provides a unique identification for each vessel as well as its position, course and speed, is invaluable from a safety and operational perspective as part of collision avoidance and traffic monitoring. Of course, no system is fool-proof and, unfortunately, a growing number of ships are making waves by circumventing AIS to disguise their nefarious activities, raising real security concerns as they change identity or simply disappear.
The reasons why ships may decide to stop their AIS transmitting – or attempt to alter the associated data – so distorting the maritime picture, are many and varied. In some cases, the ship owners may be trying to break economic sanctions, while others are engaged in illegal fishing, people or drug smuggling, carrying arms shipments or even in extreme cases assisting terrorists. Tracking down the culprits is certainly no easy task especially when they cross thousands of miles of ocean and sail in and out of multiple ports and territorial waters. Just as those trying to hide their true intent are becoming more sophisticated, so too has the technology to pick them out from all the noise and misdirection with maritime analytical techniques, when applied to AIS data gathered by satellites starting to make real headway too.
Interestingly, it was Israeli maritime analytics specialist Windward that first brought many of the issues around the misuse of AIS to the forefront thanks to a thought-provoking report published back in 2014 entitled: AIS Data on the High Seas – An Analysis of the Magnitude and Implications of Growing Data Manipulation at Sea. This research, which generated many headlines at the time, certainly didn’t pull its punches concluding that AIS data – which up to that point was “widely perceived as a reliable source of information on ship activity worldwide” – had “critical vulnerabilities”.
Looking in more detail at Windward’s findings, which were based on aggregated shipping data and AIS-fitted vessels worldwide – estimated at over 200,000 vessels – the top five tactics giving cause for concern ranged from identity fraud and obscuring destinations to ‘going dark’, GPS manipulation and AIS spoofing. Considering these in turn, on the identity fraud front Windward discovered that ships were increasingly transmitting false or stolen identifying marks by taking advantage of the AIS ‘honours system’ as ships are required to transmit their information, although there is still no way to validate the data. To put this into context, it was found that one percent of ships had used fake identification information – the IMO number – during the period of the research, which was very concerning given the overall numbers involved. For the next area, obscuring destinations, the final port of call was reported by ships on average only 41 percent of the time.
Another common manipulation practice flagged up by Windward was ships turning off their AIS transmissions completely, in fact it was discovered that over 25 percent of vessels across the globe are turning off their AIS at least 10 percent of the time. An added problem with AIS transmitters raised by the research was that they do not provide GPS validation. What this means in practice is that whatever positioning data is fed into the device is transmitted as the vessel’s position regardless of where it is. From the middle of 2013 to the middle of 2014, a 59 percent increase in GPS manipulation was uncovered. The final aspect brought out in the study was so-called ‘GPS spoofing’ – something that had been investigated previously by a team at Trend Micro – and is basically the potential for people to create ghost ships where none exist.
Fast forward to today and new data provided exclusively to intersec by Windward, concerns activities off UK shores for April to May 2017 and shows that 59 vessels with invalid IMO numbers made a port call here, in addition four vessels deliberately turned off their transmissions within 10 days of a port call. Beyond this, given the ongoing security concerns in the wake of the Manchester bomb attack, 10 ships stopped in Libyan waters and then up to two weeks later entered our waters.
Omer Primar, product manager at Windward, is keen to reiterate the issues around AIS and the practical challenges of piecing together the pieces of the puzzle when certain ships try to undermine the system. He gives the analogy of someone switching off their phone or taking out the SIM card: “It is not that I am actually disappearing, I am simply eliminating a proxy of myself, which can help other people know where I am”. In terms of AIS when it is turned off, he reckons that some countries like the UK may have the resources to keep a watchful eye on vessels through other measures, however the question arises as to what happens when the ship in question is further afield where there may not be the same capabilities: “I have no way of knowing what a ship is doing and pretty much the only source of knowing this is AIS. Turning off the AIS or manipulating it while at first it may seem very negligible for security, it actually has great ramifications if they want to hide where they are going or have come from,” says Primar.

Primar reckons that turning off an AIS transmission is not interesting in and of itself it is rather the interests which are dictating the behaviour of that vessel, the owners and the crew: “Imagine that I am trying to track someone using a cellphone and every time they went into a building it was turned off for three hours and then turned back on. What does that tell us? You don’t know what he was doing for that time from that specific source. By itself, it is just an indication that something has happened. We need to have persistent surveillance, persistent tracking, to be able to hold the entity and then those small deviations and indications of potential risk, of potential interest, start popping up. That is the critical challenge because of how AIS is and that is a major part of what our [maritime analytics] technology is designed to do to deduce the first turning off (of AIS) and the conclusion”. Primar says that Winward’s ability to join the dots has been evolving over the past seven years and that the company’s analytics solution reached its current level of maturity in late 2014, which coincided with the publication of the AIS Data on the High Seas report.
In terms of why vessels may manipulate AIS data, the examples offered up by Primar are wide ranging, whether it be a tanker whose owner is bankrupt, and there is an arrest warrant on the ship, so the vessel’s identity is changed – to a different name and IMO number – every time it enters a certain country’s waters, to boats fishing illegally seeking to hide their identities. Other reasons for going under the radar, according to Primar, include: tankers shipping oil as part of ‘sanction busting’, the smuggling of drugs, cigarettes, people and weapons, and, most concerning, to support terrorist activities. To add to this complicated equation, Primar underlines the fact that, to his knowledge, there is little enforcement going on with regards to AIS: “If a vessel is caught now manipulating its identity no one has jurisdiction to do much about it. Maybe the only stick could be the insurance company because your insurance is void during the time when you have turned off your transmission,” he concludes.
Turning to Gerry Northwood OBE, chief operating officer of MAST – a maritime risk management company – and former Royal Navy counter-piracy commander, he explains that although AIS started with relatively large ships it has gradually come down with regards to tonnage requirements to cover much smaller vessels. Addressing the case for AIS, Northwood draws a comparison with the aviation world: “Pretty much every aircraft that flies around the world files a flight plan yet you have got thousands of ships moving around internationally and in some ways, from an accountability point of view, they are more important than aircraft. The volume of goods that they are moving around is much greater and yet you don’t have to file a voyage plan”. For Northwood, given this information deficit, there is an important accountability side to AIS: “With AIS we can see what ships are doing and then that, of course, has been put into place by organisations like the IMO [International Maritime Organisation]“. He also flags up the safety angle, which is a key driver here: “AIS transmits important course and speed and navigation information,” says Northwood. Touching on the question of security where MAST’s expertise lies, he goes on to explain when it makes sense to activate a ship’s AIS: “In the Indian Ocean, for example, best management practice advises that while ships are in the Gulf of Aden they keep their AIS on because there are warships there and they need to identify the ships that are going up and down the IRTC [Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor]“.

Northwood reveals that in certain cases there are, of course, legitimate security reasons for turning AIS off: “Outside the Gulf of Aden – in the wider reaches of the Indian Ocean – where you may not have warship protection so readily available, the BMP advice is that you may consider turning your AIS off”. Expanding on his theme, Northwood puts the decision to stop using AIS in the context of who is looking at the data: “If you draw the conclusion that the Somali pirates are just as capable of owing an iPad and downloading an app to look at AIS and of course they have sat phones so they can phone through information to the vessels that they have at sea”. Northwood admits that the ability of the Somalis to track a specific vessel or types of vessels is a latent one: “We haven’t seen very much evidence of it to be honest. I think that they are more haphazard in the way they target their victims, but it is a possibility so turning off AIS for security reasons is there within best management practice”.
Moving ahead, despite the issues AIS still has a key role to play for maritime safety. The latest guidance from the IMO on AIS – Resolution A.1106 (29) – acknowledges this by stressing that AIS should always be in operation when ships are underway or at anchor, unless the master believes that continual operation might compromise the safety and/or the security of the ship. It must be hoped that greater efforts will now be taken to crack down on those who are manipulating this data to hide their activities, unless they have a valid security reason for doing so.

Timothy Compston is a journalist and PR professional who specialises in security issues. He studied International Relations and Strategic Studies at Lancaster University, is PR director at Compston PR and a previous chairman of both the National Committee and CCTV PR Committee of the British Security Industry Association.

Source: Intersec


2nd US Navy Carrier Strike Group Arrives in Asia Pacific

A second supercarrier has entered the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations.

The nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz, the lead ship of her class, has deployed to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. Navy announced on June 22.

The Nimitz strike group consisting of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard USS Shoup, USS Pinckney, USS Kidd, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton arrived in the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet area of operations on June 21.

The Seventh Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward deployed fleet with its area of operations stretching from the International Date Line to the India-Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South.

“While operating on patrol in Seventh Fleet, Nimitz is slated to enhance maritime partnerships and promote peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” the U.S. Navy statement reads. The USS Nimitz and her escort departed their homeports of Naval Station Kitsap-Bremerton and Naval Station Everett, both located in Washington state on June 1.

“Over the past eight months we have been in a pretty intense training environment, which culminated into just a superb performance during COMPTUEX (Composite Training Unit Exercise),” said Rear Admiral Bill Byrne, the commander of the Nimitz strike group. “We’re looking forward to working closely with our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific practicing the skills we gained and enhancing relationships within the region.”

The USS Nimitz was initially scheduled to deploy to the Middle East, but recent tensions on the Korean Peninsula made the U.S. government decide to dispatch the supercarrier to the Asia Pacific region.

The U.S. Navy now operates two nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the region.

The Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, operating out of Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture and currently the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed carrier strike group in the Asia-Pacific region, has recently completed a four-day port visit to Singapore.

Earlier this, the USS Ronald Reagan and the Nimitz-class carrier USS Carl Vinson conducted dual-carrier operations off the Korean peninsula in the Sea of Japan in response to North Korean ballistic missile tests. The USS Nimitz is replacing the USS Carl Vinson in Asian waters as the carrier is scheduled to return to its homeport of San Diego, California on June 23.

“The USS Carl Vinson’s deployment was extended by a month due to the volatile security situation on the Korean Peninsula,” I explained elsewhere. “While deployed in the Asia-Pacific region, the aircraft carrier participated in a number of training exercises and conducted patrols in the South China Sea.”

A carrier strike group can consist of up to 12 warships and 75 aircraft.

Source: The Diplomat

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