Tag Archives: Counter-Piracy

Sea Control 117 – Niger Delta Pirates Declare War?

seacontrol2Niger Delta violence returns as oil prices plummet and both the Nigerian government’s ability and willingness to pay off former militants decreases. As the Nigerian Navy moves to counter this new violence, a largely unknown group called the “Niger Delta Avengers” has responded by “declaring war” on the Navy. Dirk Steffen, who recently published a CIMSEC article on this development, joins us to discuss the current situation in the Gulf of Guinea, the militant threats, government capabilities & intentions, as well as the methods and background of these pirate operations. 

This is not the podcast to miss! It won’t make you an expert like Dirk, but he’ll have given us enough information to pretend to be one by the end of the podcast.

DOWNLOAD: Niger Delta Pirates Declare War?

Members’ Roundup: February Part Two

By Sam Cohen

Welcome to part two of the February 2016 members’ roundup. Over the past month CIMSEC members have examined several international maritime security issues, including a rapid increase in naval modernization in the Indian Ocean, China’s recent South China Sea military deployments, challenges within the U.S. defense acquisition program and the evolving China-Taiwan political and security relationship in East Asia.

Beginning the roundup at Popular Mechanics, Kyle Mizokami discusses the U.S. Navy’s interests in the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) and the importance of acquiring the weapon system quickly. Mr. Mizokami explains that the increasing threat of modernized surface fleets with advanced weapon systems, particularly from Russia and China, requires the U.S. Navy to deploy a weapon more capable than the current U.S. Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) – the Harpoon missile. He also outlines technical features of the missile, including its use of Artificial Intelligence, data links, an ability to avoid static threats by use of fluid way points and the platforms that can deploy the weapon system – currently the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-35C, B1 and the U.S. Navy’s standardized Mk.41 Missile Silo.

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Bryan Clark, for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, explains that the U.S. Military’s defense requirements need to be balanced with realistic and appropriate budgets and schedules. He highlights that since 1970 major DoD Defense Acquisition Programs have increased in cost from 20-60 percent while new weapon systems are on average fielded 20 percent later than originally planned. Mr. Clark suggests that eliminating overly ambitious requirements for new capabilities is key to reducing acquisition malpractice while the limitations of competition within the defense industry need to be understood to allow for DoD’s buying power to improve.

Entering the Asia-Pacific, Harry Kazianis for The National Interest explains that Washington’s FONOPs in the South China Sea are not intended to halt Chinese dominance in the region, but rather to defend freedom of navigation and maritime legal principles. Mr. Kazianis highlights that regardless of the intent of the operations, China has remained firm on its artificial island construction and militarization in addition to strengthening its security apparatus in the region. This has been evident with the deployment of the HQ-9 air-defense system atop the newly constructed islands and the drastic increase in PLA-N deployments in the region. In a second article at The National Interest, Mr. Kazianis identifies the possibility that China may deploy several of its 24 recently purchased Russian Su-35 fighters to the airfields that have been constructed on these same islands.

Lauren Dickey, for The Council on Foreign Relations, provides the perspective that China’s recent deployment of surface-to-air missile launchers and radar systems to the contested Woody Island not only represents China’s ambitions for challenging U.S. regional presence but also to forward a broader agenda of modernizing the capabilities of the PLA. Ms. Dickey also highlights President Xi’s planned reforms for the PLA likely to result in a leaner, stronger fighting force, an enhanced power projection capability and an increased ability to deter threats along the country’s periphery.

Michal Thim, for The Diplomat, discusses the recent meeting between foreign affairs officials from both the Chinese and Taiwanese government. Mr. Thim explains that these representatives have met before in other unofficial non-governmental forums, but this meeting represents the first time in six decades that officials from the two governments have met in their official capacities. He also notes that although this meeting may reflect a positive change in the dynamic of China-Taiwan relations, significant security tensions still exist between the two countries with the Taiwan Strait missile crisis still fresh in-mind and current Chinese missile deployments near the Taiwan theatre threatening Taiwanese regional defense posture.

To conclude the roundup, Vijay Sakhuja for Nikkei Asian Review discusses the high-tech naval buildup in the Indian Ocean from a regional perspective, focusing on India, Pakistan, Iran, South Africa, Australia and Indonesia. Mr. Sakhuja notes that these powers have been supporting diplomatic multilateral institutions, such as the Indian Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, to jointly address piracy concerns and to train for potential mine countermeasure operations.

Members at CIMSEC were also active elsewhere during the second part of February:

  • Shawn VanDiver, for Task and Purpose, discusses the threat climate change poses to U.S. National Security, noting its destabilizing effects in hotspot regions and its resulting security implications for nearby deployed personnel. He also explains how climate change poses a direct threat to the homeland, with increasing sea levels, larger wild fires, longer and more frequent droughts and heating-cooling strains on the domestic power grid.
  • Robert Farley, for The National Interest, provides an analysis on a recent RAND wargame exercise that demonstrated NATO’s inability to prevent Russian forces from occupying the Baltic States if it relied only on conventional forces currently available. However, Mr. Farley highlights that NATO’s primary deterrent is not necessarily its ability to counter any initial attack, rather to escalate any notional conflict beyond the parameters of Russian tactical abilities or political will.
  • Ankit Panda, for The Diplomat, discusses China’s Ministry of Defense statement that construction on support facilities for the PLA-N in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, has begun construction. Mr. Panda highlights that the Chinese government has refrained from calling its Djibouti facility as a ‘naval’ or ‘military’ base. In a second article at The Diplomat, Panda discusses South Korea’s interest in deploying Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems in response to North Korea’s recent nuclear and satellite tests.
  • Sam LaGrone, at USNI News, explains how China’s deployment of an advanced high-frequency radar array as part of a wider detection network in the South China Sea may put U.S. stealth aircraft at risk while reducing their operational capacity. In a second article at USNI News, LaGrone discusses comments released by U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) suggesting that the U.S. would ignore a Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
  • Dave Majumdar, for The National Interest, highlights the U.S. Navy’s ‘undersea crisis’ with only 41 attack boats planned to be in active service by 2029 while China plans to have nearly 70. Even more concerning, the article suggests that while Russia and China are both continuing to build the volume of their undersea fleet, Russia has already begun construction on higher-end submarines that pose specific operational issues for the U.S. submarine fleet.

CIMSEC has also recently published a compendium discussing a range of strategies, challenges and policy options concerning Distributed Lethality. You can find a download link for all of the articles here.

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on CIMSEC or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies and defense policy and management.

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Book Review: Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea

Robin Geiss and Anna Petrig. Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea: The Legal Framework for Counter-Piracy Operations in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. Oxford University Press, 2011. 340 pp. $110 


9780199609529

By Alex Calvo

The Law of Counter-Piracy Operations: From Hollywood films to some Chinese popular perceptions of their Eastern neighbors, piracy and pirates retain a powerful hold in contemporary culture. However, it is their most recent incarnation in areas like the Gulf of Guinea, the Malacca Straits, and the Horn of Africa, that is carefully followed by anybody involved in maritime affairs, from ship owners and operators to naval officers and international lawyers. Among other aspects of piracy, the legal regime of pirates and operations against them is of the foremost importance, and therefore any volume devoted to them proves a welcome addition to the literature on the sea and what Julius Caesar labeled as “hostis humani generis,” or the enemies of humankind. This is exactly what Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea purports to be, and actually is: a single-volume treaty on the law applicable to counter-piracy operations, with a regional focus on Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. The book achieves the goals of providing a comprehensive approach to the subject, with plenty of primary sources, case law where applicable, and legal commentary on controversial or unclear aspects. While readers may note the absence of topics such as the rights of victims, the ransom industry, and non-Western legislation, this does not detract from the overall quality of the work, which furthermore contains a number of sources in its appendixes which can be very useful to the practitioner.

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As clear from the title, the subtitle, and introduction, this book seeks to provide the reader with a detailed explanation of the different legal regulations and principles under which piracy is fought in one of the corners of the world where it is most pervasive, and which, crisscrossed by myriad SLOCs (sea lanes of communication), no major power can ignore it. In connection to this, the first aspect of the text we should note is that this is indeed a law book, and perhaps more accurately a “black letter law” book, in the sense that it focuses on positive law, with just the minimum amount of social, economic, and other considerations provided in Chapter one and later interspersed in the text. When the authors delve outside the strict borders of the law, it is to better explain the rationale behind legal rules, a good example being their discussion of judicial and prison capacity in- countries like Kenya (p. 174-179) and the Seychelles, which supports and complements their explanation of the agreements signed between them and the European Union for the local trial and imprisonment of pirates. Having said that, they also discuss possible future developments of the law, such as specialized international tribunals to deal with piracy (p. 179-184).

A second important characteristic we may stress is the logical fashion in which the text is divided into parts, and then subdivided into chapters, which very much aids for the reader who wishes to go through the text from beginning to end, and those who prefer to go straight to one of the issues discussed in the volume. A third strong point is that, while focused on positive law, the authors stop to discuss areas where applicable rules may not be clear or even be controversial, providing a summary of arguments and their own views. An example is the practice of embarking law-enforcement personnel from one country on a naval (or state) ship of another, with the associated legal complexities.

This photo taken Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009 provided by French Defense Minister shows suspected pirates arrested by Marine commandos of the French Navy in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia coasts. French government officials say the Jean de Vienne intercepted and captured 19 pirates Sunday as they tried to take over two cargo ships, one Croatian and the other Panamian. French Navy vessel Jean de Vienne is seen on background. (AP Photo/French Navy/French Defense Minister/HO)
This photo taken Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009 provided by French Defense Minister shows suspected pirates arrested by Marine commandos of the French Navy in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia coasts. French government officials say the Jean de Vienne intercepted and captured 19 pirates Sunday as they tried to take over two cargo ships, one Croatian and the other Panamian. French Navy vessel Jean de Vienne is seen on background. (AP Photo/French Navy/French Defense Minister/HO)

The Book’s Strong Points: The text provides a comprehensive look at applicable legislation and extensive discussion of unclear aspects. As noted, the authors make an extensive effort to cover the different legal aspects of the fight against piracy, adding their commentary and summaries of other views where positive law is unclear or developing. Examples include three possible interpretations of Article 105 UNCLOS, providing universal or limited criminal jurisdiction, a conflict-of-law rule, or a reaffirmation “that prosecution is based on domestic criminal law and procedure” (p. 149-151), and a discussion of the differences between transfers and extradition, noting how generally speaking “in the piracy context, the change in custody is not brought about by the formal means of extradition” and “transfers in the piracy context do not fulfill the characteristics of deportations or exclusions.” (p. 192-194)

The Expanding Range of Somali Piracy
The Expanding Range of Somali Piracy

Three gaps: Non-Western Views, Piracy Victims, and the Ransom Industry and Middlemen

There are three aspects that, if incorporated in future editions of the book, may make this work even more complete. First of all, we should note a lack of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Russian, and South Korean views, even though all these countries contribute to the struggle against piracy in the Horn of Africa. It would be interesting to find some legal commentary, domestic legislation, or actual cases, from these jurisdictions. Second, we cannot fail but note a complete and utter disregard for piracy victims, who are basically absent from the text. While the death penalty, torture, and the principle of “non-refoulement” are dealt with extensively (p. 210-220), there is no discussion of reparations for victims, and of their procedural standing other than when serving as a connection point for states to exercise jurisdiction.

The authors’ concern with the human rights of alleged and convicted pirates is commendable, and so is their extensive treatment of those rights in their book, but caring about the rights of the accused should not be seen as incompatible with at least providing some cursory explanation of those of the victims. Finally, another notable absence is that of the “middlemen” and more widely the “industry” managing ransoms, and their possible criminal liabilities. No look at the legal framework of the fight against piracy is complete without an examination of the rules and practice designed to strangle their finance, but despite the subject occasionally emerging in the pages of the book, there is no section specifically dealing with it. Is it perhaps too sensitive?

Conclusions: It is a useful and quite comprehensive study, though suffering from some gaps. We can thus conclude that this is a book that anybody interested in piracy and counter-piracy operations, the law of the sea, and more generally maritime and naval affairs, will find useful, both as a detailed introduction to the legal rules applicable to counter-piracy operations, and as a reference work. It is to be hoped, however, that future editions incorporate non-Western views, victims’ rights, and the law applicable to pirate financing.

Alex Calvo is a guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan) focusing on security and defence policy, international law, and military history in the Indian-Pacific Ocean. Region. A member of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) and Taiwan’s South China Sea Think-Tank, he is currently writing a book about Asia’s role and contribution to the Allied victory in the Great War. He tweets @Alex__Calvo and his work can be found here.

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China’s Yuan-class Submarine Visits Karachi: An Assessment

In May 2015, a Chinese Type 041 Yuan-class submarine (pennant number 335) entered the Indian Ocean and made a week-long port call at Karachi, Pakistan. This development caused alarm in India, at least in the media circles, particularly since it comes barely six months after the first-ever Indian Ocean deployment of China’s Song-class submarine between September and November 2014, and its docking in Sri Lanka’s Colombo port. Notably, following the Colombo docking, NMF view-point titled “PLA Navy’s Submarine Arm ‘Stretches its Sea Legs to the Indian Ocean” of 21 November 2014 had predicted future Chinese submarine dockings in Pakistan’s ports. These seminal developments call for an objective assessment in terms of China’s intent underlying its submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean and its implications for India.

Alike the port call in Sri Lanka, China is likely to justify the submarine visit to Pakistan as a replenishment halt enroute to PLA Navy’s ongoing counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. However, these deployments may be seen in context of the growing volatility of the security environment in the South China Sea, including the increasing brinkmanship between China and the United States. In case of a maritime conflict in the area, China’s energy shipments transiting the Indian Ocean are strategically vulnerable. Through its submarine deployments, China may be seeking to deter its potential adversaries against interdicting its Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean.

Route of the Yuan class submarine.

By virtue of its opaque operating medium, a submarine has always been a potent platform of war. The technological advances in satellite and air surveillance have not been able to offset the submarine’s inherent advantage of stealth. On the other hand, the advances in underwater weaponry – particularly submarine-launched anti-ship and land-attack missiles – have further enhanced the submarine’s lethality. The only constraint of a conventional (diesel-driven) submarine – like the Song-class – is to re-charge its batteries, for which its need to come up to the sea surface (for access to atmospheric oxygen) every two or three days, depending upon the usage of the batteries. This limits the submarine’s operational role and makes it highly vulnerable. However, Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology – such as on the Yuan class – has eased this constraint substantially, since its stored liquid oxygen enables the submarine to operate underwater for an extended durations of as much as two to three weeks.

Among the aims specific to the Yuan 335 call at Karachi, the foremost may be to showcase the Yuan to the Pakistan Navy. Notably, news-reports indicate that Pakistan Navy (PN) is likely to acquire up to eight Chinese Type 41 Yuan-class submarines. The contract between Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works Limited (KSEW) and China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Co. Ltd. (CSOC) includes building some of these at KSEW. These submarines are equipped with Sterling AIP system, which the Chinese claim is more efficient than the AIP systems currently available in the world. The week-long docking of the Yuan at Karachi – too long merely for replenishment – may also have been utilised for training of the KSEW and PN personnel on the submarine, and its machinery and weapon systems, particularly the AIP system.

In broader terms, the two sets of Chinese submarine forays into the Indian Ocean (Colombo and Karachi) are likely to be ‘trial balloons’ for regular operational deployments of Chinese submarines in the region. The current deployments are also likely to be meant to familiarise the PLA Navy with the new operational environment in the Indian Ocean, train them for distant missions, collect intelligence, and collate hydrographic data specific to the Indian Ocean, which is essential for future submarine operations in the region. At present, the Chinese submarines need to replenish only fuel, food and fresh water. In the longer term, with the PN (and some other regional navies such as the Thai Navy) operating the same submarines, the PLA Navy is likely to benefit from a more comprehensive logistics support – technical services, machinery and equipment spare-parts and even ammunition. This will enable the Chinese submarines to remain deployed in the Indian Ocean for extended periods.

While China may continue to deploy its conventional submarines in the Indian Ocean, these are likely to be supplemented with the upgraded version of its new-generation Type 093 nuclear attack submarines (SSNs), whenever these are operationally deployable. These SSNs are likely to be armed with anti-ship and land-attack missiles, and capable of launching Special Operations Forces (SOF) via Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDV). Since SSNs do not need replenished, these submarines would not need to enter any regional port, unless China wants to demonstrate a deterrent posture.

China and India share a complex relationship, competitive, and even potentially adversarial. Hence, even if increasing Chinese submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean is not directly targeted at India, the development has severe national security implications for New Delhi. The response to increasing Chinese submarine forays in the Indian Ocean lies in developing affective air, ship and submarine based Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities, including sub-surface Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).

Captain Gurpreet S Khurana, PhD is the Executive Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Indian Navy, the NMF or the Government of India. He can be reached at gurpreet.bulbul@gmail.com.

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