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pirates & seasteads (islands of good institutions?)

well, this is all new to me.

“off the coast of East Africa is environmentally a very favorable location [for sea-steadng] but the issue of piracy makes it forlorn,” says the institute for ethics and emerging technologies.

sea-steading was a new concept to me but, apparently, it involves ” creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by the government of any standing nation.” thanks, wikipedia.

here’s the gist

The Seasteading Institute’s mission is to inspire political competition. In proximity to nations such as Somalia, Sudan and Saudi Arabia an atoll of innovative political thinking is very much needed. Why are there pirates in the first place? Foreign companies enabled by poor governance have polluted the shores and rivers and have left those nations without jobs or resources. Piracy is dangerous for all, yet it will continue as long as the causes are present.

What if seasteading could not only solve political instability, but the famine and piracy as well?

With little initial investment a small sea farming operation begins off the coast of Somalia.  The operator comes into a Somali port to hire workers; they are trained on the principles of sea farming, desalinization and hydroponics. As production grows, experienced workers are trained on constructing expanded farming quadrants, crop management and even given the support to begin their own operations.

As primarily a concept farm incorporated for social benefit and not for profit, almost all food production can be offloaded at little or no cost to support the local communities – greatly diminishing the food drought in that region.

The same farmers who helped grow the food sail back to shore and distribute it in the markets, creating local wealth and good will. By using almost exclusively Somali fishermen to operate these farms you are thereby providing an alternative to piracy in their communities. By supplying food into their communities you attack an urgent humanitarian crisis and add an additional incentive to avoid piracy.

So… what about the seastead? The food is given freely so there is not much purpose in raiding it, the staff is entirely made of the desperate fishers and farmers that no longer have a reason to be pirates, so their ransoms would not be profitable.

The status quo will still exist and will be the largest obstacle to success.  However, with the tide turning against the pirates on many fronts, and the specter of a stronger central government on the rise, even pirate masterminds will see the profitability in abandoning the trade for the increasing economic vitality of progress.

meh?

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used against pirates and tornadoes

the crew of a greek oil tanker resisted hijacking in the gulf of guinea by hiding in the ship’s safe room. evidently, safe rooms are increasingly being used as anti-piracy measures.

unlike in hijackings off the coast of Somalia on the opposite side of the continent, west African gangs have not sought ransoms, instead unloading cargo onto other ships to sell on the black market.

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middle east gulf piracy expected to actively continue for a minimum of 10 years

report (Managing Supply Chain Risk: Understanding Piracy Threat) released from the 4th ‘Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association Supply Chain Conference.’

this year marks a turning point in piracy activities. the number of vessels captured in 2011 compared to 2010 reduced by over 50 per cent and further reductions are expected in the coming years.

however, as the success rate for capturing ships decreases, ransom requests are getting higher and Somali pirates are becoming more aggressive and strategic, said the report… pirates are acting further off the coast of Somalia, and are now in the Gulf of Oman, positioning themselves closer to traffic lanes in search of vessels of opportunity.

piracy is symptomatic of the socio-economic predicament of the Somali nation and eradicating it depends on the economic future of Eastern Africa. ultimately, the long-term solution must include rebuilding the country and providing alternative economic opportunities to “would-be” pirates addressing the root causes of piracy: the impoverished circumstances of many of the actors.

even in the “best-case” scenario, when all measures are successfully implemented, and root-causes are fixed, the real piracy threat is expected to remain for at least the next 10 years.

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altered definition of piracy

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday on the legal definition of piracy, saying an armed attack on a U.S. vessel can be considered piracy even if no one ever boards or robs the ship.

Read more.

pyrates: this has a familiar ring

a small excerpt from ‘a general history of the robberies and murders of the most notorious pyrates,’ likely by daniel defoe (published under the name of captain charles johnson) (1724). more prescient on the issue of employment than on the bottomless fish supply, of course.

We have given a few Instances in the Course of this History of the Inducements Men have to engage themselves headlong in a Life of so much Peril to themselves, and so destructive to the Navigation of the trading World; to remedy which Evil there seems to be but two Ways, either to find Employment for the great Number of Seamen turn’d adrift at the Conclusion of a War, and thereby prevent their running into such Undertakings, or to guard sufficiently the Coast of Africa, the West-Indies, and other Places whereto Pyrates resort.

I cannot but take notice in this Place, that during this long Peace, I have not so much as heard of a Dutch pyrate: It is not that I take them to be honester than their neighbors; but when we account for it, it will, perhaps, be a Reproach to our selves for our want of Industry: The reasons I take to be, that after a War, when the Dutch Ships are laid up, they have a Fishery, where their Seamen find immediate Business, and as comfortable Bread as they had before. Had ours the same Recourse in their Necessities, I’m certain we should find the same Effect from it; for a Fishery is a Trade that cannot be overstock’d; the Sea is wide enough for us all, we need not quarrel for Elbow-room: Its stores are infinite, and will ever reward the Labourer… if there was a publick Spirit among us, it would be well worth our while to establish a National Fishery, which would be the best Means in the World to prevent Pyracy, employ a Number of the Poor, and ease the Nation of a great Burthen, by lowering the Price of Provision in general, as well as of several other Commodities.

As Custom is a second Nature, it is no Wonder that, when an honest Livlyhood is not easily had, they run into one so like their own; so it may be said, that Privateers in a time of War are a Nursery for Pyrates against a Peace.

other wisdom from the same era (jonathan swift & microcredit): due diligence h/t marginal revolution & marginal revolution

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a few pirate tidbits from an exibition i did not attend

but this nice woman did. some highlights of her highlights:

slave ships

  • ‘pirates liked to steal slave ships (en route from Africa), since they were built to carry large numbers and could be remodeled to fit their needs.
  • ‘the ships included craftsmen, including people who could remodel captured ships to fit the pirate crew’s needs and maintain the ships.
  • ‘the Whydah was a slave ship that was captured and converted into one of the most successful pirate ships in history in the early 1700s. after only two months of plundering and conquests, the ship sank during a storm off of Cape Cod, taking Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy and all but two of its crew with it

democracy & niceties

  • ‘pirates tried to avoid battles, hoping their threats would suffice. after all, they didn’t want to get hurt and wanted the ship and loot to be in good shape.
  • ‘when a ship was captured, pirates would sometimes ask the crew about their captain. if he was cruel, they might torture and kill him. if he was good to his men, they sometimes would reward him with treasure — and sometimes gave him a ship.
  • ‘on merchant ships, the captain had his own quarters while the crew slept where they could find room. he also was paid handsomely compared to his crew and was clearly in charge. Pirate ships operated differently. the captain had no more rights than his crew (except during battles and for navigation decisions) and was paid the same. he also slept in the same quarters as his men.pirate ships were run democratically, with everyone getting equal pay and treatment – after you signed an oath.
  • there was racial equality on pirate ships. many of the slaves joined the pirates when their ship was captured. some ships even had all-black crews.

fun

  • ‘to make their long voyages tolerable, pirate ships often had band concerts and one-act plays.
  • ‘pirates would sometimes “take” musicians from ships they captured.
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pirates make UN sexy — but at high price

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-16/war-on-somali-piracy-needs-rules-and-impregnable-citadels.html

key points:

  • pirates (as a topic, apparently, not as guests) make a meeting sexy
  • 219 piracy incidents in 2010 cost  “the shipping industry, insurers, navies and law enforcement more than $7 billion”
  • speeding may not be the answer but impregnable citadels are (?). shockingly, “it may be futile to expect shippers to run at full speed through an entire danger zone, as recommended in the industry’s current Best Management Practices.” (seriously?)  “rather, with better information sharing among the various navies in the Indian Ocean and timely assessments of pirate action from risk consultants and shipping companies themselves, ships’ masters can learn what particular areas to avoid or speed through.”
  • “the IMO should support the for accreditation and certification standards of private maritime-security companies, and push for a global convention that would create a legal structure for prosecuting open-water piracy — a Hague for the High Seas. “the guidelines could cover everything from rules of engagement to the management of firearms to training in lifesaving.”

is this how you repay the pirates for jazzing up your organization?

the author notes that “the only “cure” for Indian Ocean piracy will be stability and economic growth in Somalia” but doesn’t say much about increasing piracy “off western AfricaSouth America and Southeast Asia.”

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eu carries out airstrikes on mainland somali pirate bases

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18069685

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2012/0515/EU-airstrike-on-Somali-pirates-echoes-US-drone-strategy

eu is now allowing airstrikes on on-land targets, a move about which the somali government was aware. however, no eu boots are ashore in these operations.

By bringing its fighting strategy more in line with that of the US, Europe is playing “a very dangerous game,” says Bronwyn Burton,  deputy director of the Michael S. Ansari Center at TheAtlantic Council and an expert on Somalia. “Both sides would probably agree that the solution to both piracy and terrorism is state building in Somalia,” she said. “But despite a lot of lip service being paid to that kind of policy, what we have now instead is first the US and now the EU pursuing a policy of diplomacy by airstrike.”

***

Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, said the attack along Somalia’s central coastline destroyed speed boats, fuel depots and an arms store.

“They destroyed our equipment to ashes. It was a key supplies center for us,” Hussein said. “The fuel contributed to the flames and destruction. Nothing was spared.”

***

The EU is the main donor to the Somali transitional government. It also trains Somali army troops, and is reinforcing the navies of five neighboring countries to enable them to counter piracy themselves… Rear Adm. Duncan Potts, Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, said the attack will increase the pressure and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows.

The EU Naval Force is responsible for the protection of World Food Program ships carrying humanitarian aid for Somalia, and the logistic support vessels of the African Union troops conducting operations there. It also monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.

The EU’s more robust mandate for its naval force allows it for the first time to mount strikes against pirate targets on Somalia’s “coastal territory and internal waters.” When the policy was announced, officials said the new tactics could include using warships or their helicopters to target pirate boats moored along the shoreline, as well as land vehicles or fuel tanks used by the pirates.

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economics of piracy

economic cost: piracy’s global financial damage is in the range of USD 7 – 12 billion

  • “in somalia, the economic model for piracy is working well. in 2010, the US, EU and the UK gave the country a combined $298m in aid – less than half the sum pocketed by the pirates when light aircraft dropped waterproof containers full of cash into the waters near their beach settlements.” (here.)

economic strategy, should you be kidnapped:

  • first, this is likely (should you be off the cost of the horn of africa), as piracy now, like piracy in antiquity but less like the early modern period, is largely about kidnapping
  • negotiators should seem willing to walk away
  • do not reveal that you have kidnapper’s insurance (or other info about capacity to pay)
  • the going ransom rate is not relevant to your bargaining situation
  • “when the hostage’s party is negotiating a ransom with pirates both the pirates and hostages may be behaving in ways that are ultimately consistent with a game of chicken under conditions of bounded rationality and bayesian inference about asymmetric information, but in the immediate subjective sense they may simply be feeling that the recent run of ransoms sets an expectation of what it is fair to pay for this particular hostage”
  • (among other things, “maybe Mogadishu University needs a better econ department”)
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new pirate prison set up in somaliland

more here.

unclear how much it will do to deter piracy but will help relieve pressure in neighboring (prosecuting) countries — though very few will ever be prosecuted (and many released).

“the pirates know what the odds are when they get into the business – four out of 10 pirates that go out on the water die. with that mindset, prosecution is not going to be a deterrent,” said Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.