Mercenaries vs. Pirates


PiratesFor several years the waters off the coast of Somalia has been infested with pirates. The lack of government and civil services combined with high rates of poverty and unemployment has made the Horn of Africa an incubator for piracy. Operating primarily in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean, pirates hijack merchant vessels and take the crew hostage and then exchange them for ransom from the ships corporate owners. The United States Navy and other partner nations have been the primary force combating piracy, but more and more companies are looking towards private security firms for protection.

Shipping companies have been hiring mercenaries to be station onboard their ships as armed guards. However, to avoid the cost and complications of having to check their weapons through customs at each port, mercenary firms are establishing floating armories. Now, an entrepreneur from England wants to take it a step further. As Danger Room reported, Anthony Sharp is created Typhon, a company that seeks to be the Blackwater of the sea. Sharp seeks to create a fleet of mercenary ships for hire. The operation will be staffed with ex-Royal Marines and sailors.

Eventually, Sharp wants to have a fleet of ten ships, but as of right now he is refitting a 130-foot cargo ship. Each ship will theoretically carry a crew of 60, and of that 40 will be the private security force made up of British ex-military personnel. Merchant ships will have the option of being escorted by a convoy for $5,000 to $10,000 a day or being virtually watched for $1,000 a day.

Coalition forces have been combating piracy in the region for several years, and appear to be making strides. P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft stationed in Djibouti provides reconnaissance support over pirate infested waters from the air. The flights provide real-time intelligence to assets on the water, and attempt to identify possible pirate ships and direct vessels on how to change course to avoid them.

Sharp’s mercenaries may be too late to the party. According to reporting by Stars and Stripes, piracy in the Gulf of Aden may be on the decline. Since 2009 piracy attacks have dropped 27%. During that year there were 406 piracy attacks. In 2012 there were 297, and of those 75 were tied to Somalia pirates who captured 250 hostages. During that time the US Navy has been actively training navies including those of Tanzania, Kenya, and Djibouti.

Photo: Coalition ships track a pirate vessel from European External Action Service (EEAS).

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