Friday, August 31, 2012

Piracy 2012: Now With Form Letters, P.R.

Thanks to a reader.
From Reuters, Aug. 13:
Africa's pirates have demands - and letterhead, too
Welcome to the Pirate Action Group. Pirate commander Jamal wishes to congratulate you on being hijacked. Kindly speak to his negotiator about your ransom, bearing in mind that his demands are similar for every vessel he seizes.

This is not an absurd joke -- this is how the pirates of the African coast do business, and it's a serious matter for the companies that have to pay out.

In 2011 Somali piracy cost the world economy $7 billion and earned the pirates some $160 million in ransoms, according to a recent report by the International Maritime Bureau.

Piracy is receding of late, but it is still a threat. The maritime bureau reported 69 hijacking incidents by Somali pirates between Jan. 1 and July 12, down 32 percent from last year.

Rogues though they may be, these pirates in many cases are surprisingly well-organized, down to having their own packets of paperwork -- on letterhead -- for their victims.

Reuters obtained a copy of one such packet, presented to the owner of a hijacked oil tanker and the owner's insurer after the ship was taken. Due to the commercial sensitivities, the names of the insurer and ship owner were redacted from the document, as was the size of the ransom request.

But what remains is colorful enough, and somewhat surprising. The cover sheet, in memo format, is addressed "To Whom It May Concern" with the subject line "Congratulations to the Company/Owner."
"Having seen when my Pirate Action Group (P.A.G) had controlled over your valuable vessel we are saying to you Company/Owner welcome to Jamal's Pirate Action Group (J.P.A.G) and you have to follow by our law to return back your vessel and crew safely," the memo begins.

The tone of the memo belies the violent reality of the pirate's actions. As of early August armed Somali pirates hold more than 170 hostages, according to the IMB, and were responsible for 35 deaths in 2011 alone.

"Do not imagine that we are making to you intimidation," the memo says, before signing off with "Best regards" and the signature of Jamal Faahiye Culusow, the General Commander of the Group....MORE
And the letters?
...Reuters shared this copy of the letter with The Atlantic Wire:

As the military-chronicling site Strategy Page reports, times are tough for Somali pirates. The last ship they took was a fishing boat on June 19, and the last attack on June 25 was thwarted. According to Berkowitz's report, "the maritime bureau reported 69 hijacking incidents by Somali pirates between Jan. 1 and July 12, down 32 percent from last year." So pirates need to make the most of the ships they capture, and the letterhead helps them do that by professionalizing the process....MORE
"Somali sea gangs lure investors at pirate lair" and "A comparison of Piracy and Private Equity"
"Mace and Vomit: The Latest in Anti-Pirate Tech"
Oil: Somali Pirates Seize Supertanker, Smoke the Khat, Head for Home
Somali pirates set up "agencies" on three continents
"Dealing with Pirates (and terrorists) Russian Style
 "The Arms Race Against the Pirates"
Big Money: Somali Pirates' Rich Returns
Arrgh: 'Pirates Not a Good Long Term Bet
"Kidnapped by Pirates at Sea? Here's How Economics Can Save You"

Obama Reaches Out to 'Moderate' Pirate Community (and we plan to make a buck-o, or two)
Somali Jihadi's Put a Price on Obama's, Hillary's Heads
..."Anyone who helps the Mujahideen find the whereabouts of Obama and Hillary Clinton will be rewarded with 10 Camels to the information leading to Obama and 10 hens and 10 cocks for Hillary," said senior Shabaab commander Fuad Mohamed Khalaf in a statement reported on numerous websites....