Safety on the High Seas essay

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M2d1: Pirates

Pirates off the coasts of Africa and Southeast Asia have put forth the argument that they are merely defending their coastlines from international shipping polluting their coastlines and violating their fishing rights. What do you think of this argument?

Piracy has a negative effect, not simply for the persons suffering from the attack, but also for the residents living in the areas from which the piracy springs. Piracy causes substantial economic losses for the populations in regions where piracy is a way of life. For example, "unlike pirates along Somalia's coast, who are often only after ransom, pirates in West Africa also steal goods, particularly oil. Many attacks end up with crew members injured or killed. But pirate attacks do not only result in killings and injuries, tragic as those are; they also damage the economy. In some cases, affected countries in West Africa have become less concerned with direct losses from piracy than with the ways in which these losses affect international insurance rates and other trade-related costs" (Ari 2013). Regardless of what one thinks about the alleged 'justice' of piracy, the act has a clear, material impact upon the economy of the nation and also causes the world community to hesitate to engage in normal economic relations with the 'home' nation. Even if not all acts of alleged piracy as unjustified, enough have caused violence to cause the states from where they originate to be called 'rogue states,' resulting in the similar national ostracism as is caused by states which are associated with terrorism.

Although piracy is going down overall in Southeast Asia, some nations such as Indonesia continue to struggle with containing it. "On the lighter end of the spectrum are the sea-faring hooligans who conduct sloppy attacks on heavily trafficked coastal waters...On the other end of the spectrum, there is the more sophisticated and more troubling brand of piracy perpetrated by large-scale, well-coordinated global crime organizations. In these kinds of attacks, cargo worth millions of dollars is routinely stolen, as in the case of the Petro Ranger, an oil tanker that was robbed of $3 million worth of fuel en route from Singapore to Vietnam" (DeHart 2013). As these nations strive to gain legitimacy in the world community as sources of economic power, the constant threat of piracy will inevitably curtail their aspirations if left unchecked. This must be accomplished by law enforcement authorities, as crews have little recourse to defend themselves: "While official response may be helping, there is still little that the men on the ships can do in the event of an attack. In fact, crew members are expressly trained to simply meet pirates' demands without a fight. Many captains forbid their crew from keeping weapons on board, as they have found that the pirates usually have them outgunned" (De Hart 2013).

Ultimately, if there are problems with international shipping and fishing rights violations, these should be handled by recognized international bodies, not by renegade means. Piracy is never justifiable and most examples of piracy are clearly designed to enrich the perpetrators, not avenge injustice.


Ari, B. (2013). Piracy in West Africa. African Renewal. Retrieved from:

DeHart, J. (2013). Pirates of the Southeast Asian seas. The Diplomat. Retrieved from:


Why are ships decommissioned? Where and how is this carried out? What are the environmental hazards of decommissioning?

When a ship has ended its useful life to the service of a navy, it goes through a process of decommissioning, or the process of removing it from active use. It is costly to maintain an active ship and so the U.S. Navy must make choices about which vehicles are high-priority and which are not. "Each year, the Office of Chief of Naval Operations conducts a Ship Disposition Review conference to determine which vessels will be decommissioned from active service and either retained for potential reactivation or stricken from the Naval Vessel Register and designated for disposal" (Ship inactivation, 2014, Navy).

Decommissioning is a lengthy process and involves the retaining of most installed equipment and repair parts as well as most mechanical and electrical devices (Ship inactivation, 2014, Navy). It also involves installing dehumidifies to protect he ship and the "removal and storage of external topside equipment (e.g., antennas and directors) in the hanger bay under dehumidification" (Ship inactivation, 2014, Navy). "All machinery, boilers, turbines, piping systems, electrical systems, electronic equipment, weapons systems, and hull structure and fittings will be placed in a state of preservation" while smoke stack closures are installed along with propeller shaft and locking devices (Ship inactivation, 2014, Navy). Then, the Navy will "pump and drain all petroleum systems," install "clean and gas-free Aviation Gas tanks and systems;" "clean and preserve JP 5 and diesel oil tanks;" "remove water and sludge from tanks and bilges;" and "repair watertight doors and hatches" (Ship inactivation, 2014, Navy). Ensuring that the drained petroleum and other waste products from the decommissioned shift are disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way is essential (Ship inactivation, 2014, Navy). Also, if a ship is to be totally disassembled, the materials must be recycled or preferably reused to ensure the process takes place in a sustainable fashion.

Another critical reason for decommissioning besides the financial component is the concern that the ship may be stolen and used for nefarious purposes if it is not properly secured when not in use. Conversely, a still-workable craft should also be easily be able to be re-commissioned or put back into action if the need presented itself, based upon a change in world affairs. The Navy must keep track of all ships in its possession, regardless of whether they are in use. Finally, some ships may be of historical importance and are preserved to memorialize them.


Ship inactivation & ship maintenance Frequently Asked Questions. (2014). Navy. Retrieved from:

JOSHUA SAVOIE M2D1 Response to original post

Poverty and piracy are clearly linked: very few people will undertake the risks of piracy unless they are truly desperate. It is probably difficult for us to appreciate what life is like in a country like Somalia, where opportunities for legitimate employment are virtually nonexistent. This does not excuse the crime but suggests that solving the problem of piracy is partially economic as well as legal and political in nature.

The link between piracy and economic privation is one of the reasons why the crime is so intractable and difficult to deal with, given the abundance of 'failed' states around the world that give rise to conditions favorable to piracy. Even in areas where rigorous policing has resulted in substantial improvement in ship safety, at least part of the reason for the reduction in piracy has been the amelioration of toxic political situations and the creation of more economic opportunities. Perhaps piracy should not be viewed as a separate crime but as a 'spillover' effect from other crimes.

MICHAEL RINELLA M2D1 Response to original post

I completely agree that the end of the Cold War and the lack of funding of client states have had a major impact upon piracy. Also, the superpowers are less interested in many countries where piracy is now common because there is less perceived strategic need to be so. However, after ignoring hot spots in Africa and East Asia for too long, developing world nations such as the U.S. are paying the price in the form of the economic consequences that piracy can generate for its victims. Although consumers may not pay a direct price for the consequences of piracy given that goods and ships are insured, over the long run the economic drain will be felt as insurance costs increase and crews grow more wary about venturing into dangerous waters, particularly if they continue to be poorly paid.


It is possible that both contentions are true: fishing fleets may be taking advantage of the government instability of the Somali coat but pirates are still engaging in their illicit, violent activities for personal gain. The political turmoil in the area has given rise to a host of illegal activities, both of Somali and foreign in origin. The fact that munitions were seized from a Ukrainian freighter, not just the fish that was allegedly poached, however, suggests ulterior motives on the part of the pirates. Regardless, it is likely that in this situation not everyone is completely blameless and various sides are exploiting the current situation as a source of enrichment. This indicates that some parties may have a vested interest in the current government's plight continuing rather than becoming more stable.

MICHAEL RINELLA M2D2 Response to original post

That is very true -- I am sure the U.S. decommissioning process (which is so methodical) is in stark contrast to developing world nations. It is comforting to know that the process is so detailed in the United States. Although it may be expensive and costly in the eyes of taxpayers, the costs of not decommissioning properly would be much greater in terms of the…[continue]

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