February 10, 2013

Somebody Has Grown A Brain!

This one’s right up Seth’s and Wolf’s alley, for sure…

From Thisismoney.co/uk

Private security group assembles first private navy since East India Company to protect Indian Ocean shipping convoys from Somali pirates

Piracy ain’t what it used to be. The days of salty sea dogs with a wooden leg and a garrulous parrot are long gone – if they ever existed – and the modern version is not quite so romantic.

Out in the Indian Ocean, armed Somali pirate gangs roam an area the size of North America, boarding trade vessels and demanding huge ransoms for the return of precious cargo and terrified crew.

Western navies are already incapable of policing such huge areas and find themselves more thinly spread than ever as defence cuts bite.

Last year, South Korea reportedly coughed up £16m to retrieve one of its vessels. And £263m was paid in ransoms between 2009 and 2010.

A cut of the cash, typically up to 50 per cent, ends up funding brutal terrorist groups such as Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Ransoms are not even the biggest cost.

Nervous shipping firms often divert cargo round the Cape of Good Hope or run at fuel-guzzling speeds in the hope of outrunning pirates, at a cost of about £1.9bn last year.

Companies will spend this money rather than face the six-to-nine month wait before a captured ship is returned, usually stripped of anything that made it seaworthy.

Insurance claims can take years to come through, if ever. All told, the cost to global trade is between £4.5bn and £7.6bn every year.

Anthony Sharp, chief executive of private security group Typhon, thinks he has the answer. He is assembling the first private navy since the East India Company some 220 years ago.

The operational hub is a control room in Dubai, from which Typhon monitors its clients’ vessels in the vast ungovernable expanse of the Indian Ocean.

‘It always starts with detect and avoid,’ says Sharp, who launched his own pubs business straight after school and made military contacts via polo. ‘We’re not interested in having a fight and we’ll walk away from it if we can.’

But the high seas are unpredictable and it isn’t always possible to divert ships away from danger. The alternative is the security afforded by Typhon’s convoy protection model.

At the heart of the convoy is a 130m-long ‘mothership’, carrying four fast patrol boats capable of up to 50 knots. Above the mothership flies an ‘Aerostat’ balloon, or potentially an unmanned drone, able to spot threats from 15 miles away.

Some 60 highly-trained former Royal Navy and Royal Marines – earning between $200 and $1200 a day – are aboard, armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art weaponry.

Ships in the convoy fly the Typhon flag, letting would-be ransom-hunters know who they are dealing with. ‘It’s a bit like the Queen’s motorcycle outriders,’ says Sharp. ‘They will think, “I know what that flag means and there are easier targets”. These are entrepreneurial criminals, it’s not for King and Country.’

But pirates do not always behave rationally. Should a suspect vessel be spotted speeding towards the convoy, a fast patrol boat will be deployed. The boat comes alongside possible pirates and advises them in no uncertain terms to sail out of a half-mile exclusion zone.

‘If they’re really intent, that would provoke them to raise a weapon and start firing at us. Thankfully we’ve got ballistic nylon everywhere so we can take shots,’ Sharp explains nonchalantly.

The next step, he says, is not ‘shoot to kill’ but rather one shot, with a .50 calibre M82 sniper rifle, through the hull of the offending vessel.

‘The Royal Marines we employ are highly trained and quite capable of doing that, even at speed. And your vessel will sink.’

Specialist lawyers offer advice to ensure Typhon follows the rules of engagement in international waters to the letter. For potential clients, the savings are obvious.

It is not just about ransoms and fuel costs, but also insurance premiums, which Sharp reckons can be cut by up to 80pc for firms that buy Typhon’s protection.

The business proposition has plenty of backing.

Glencore chairman Simon Murray, a former French legionnaire, chairs Typhon’s advisory board. His role at the commodities trader and on the board of Asian shipping companies, means business should not be too hard to come by.

The boardroom also boasts more medals than the Olympic Village, with ex-military directors including Lord Richard Dannatt, former chief of general staff in the Army.

The group’s first fund-raising round won around £13m of investment from Middle Eastern shipping magnates tired of losing cargos. A second round of debt finance is expected once the Typhon fleet has expanded from two ships at present to ten.

Sharp hopes to extend the service into other maritime trouble spots such as the Gulf of Guinea, where oil theft from Nigeria’s fields has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Contracts for ports, or even the military, could follow.

After that, Sharp would happy to sell up to a major security company, none of whom have a division quite like it.

Typhon’s first boats will put to sea in April. The 21st century incarnation of Long John Silver could be in for a rude awakening.

Go get ‘em!

by @ 9:46 am. Filed under Getting Something Right, Security
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4 Responses to “Somebody Has Grown A Brain!”

  1. The Gray Monk Says:

    As you might expect the “liberal left” are already whining about “legality” and the “potential abuse of human rights” by a company outside the control of their cliques of sympathisers. I think the pirates are supported by criminal organisations in the Far East, Europe and the US. They are very selective of their targets and always seem to know in advance which ships are carrying what cargo and therefore likely to be a rewarding target. I believe Interpol has some evidence of this.

    The Left’s main problem with the proposal is that, at present, they can order a Naval ship to not shoot a pirate, they won’t be able to do that with these guys. I believe the company is having no trouble recruiting either, rather the opposite, they could probably man all ten of their proposed ships tomorrow and still have men queueing to sign on.

    The HEIC’s Bombay Marine became the Indian Navy and, ironically, is now numerically superior to it’s ‘parent’ navy, the RN. And the reductions the RN has suffered over the last sixty years can all be laid at the feet of these same whinging, whining “liberals” who can always find something else to waste our money on.

  2. Mrs Wolf Says:

    Gray Monk

    Knowing Wolf and many of his old comrades, I can probably think of at least twenty guys who would be lining up for the job!

    I hadn’t considered the insider angle, but it makes a ton of sense; How else would the pirates know which ships to choose over others?

    I only hope that, eventually, ways and means are devised to determine the sources of this information and then to deal harshly, exponentially so, with the lowlifes responsible — they are as culpable for every death inflicted by the pirates and every scratch’s worth of property damage as the pirates themselves.

    One envisions a slimy character ala Stewart Granger’s role in The Wild Geese collecting on a major insurance policy off an act of piracy on one or more vessels of his shipping fleet….

  3. The Gray Monk Says:

    There is a suspicion that at least some of the “highjacks” have had an “insurance” motive - but it is unproven at present.

  4. Mrs Wolf Says:

    Gray Monk

    I sincerely hope Interpol or some other organization is looking into that; If any of these are inside jobs for insurance purposes, the company directorships that set them up are as culpable in the killings of these vessels’ officers and crew as the pirates themselves.