Intelligence: Pirate Games


July 12, 2011: The Somali pirate gangs have adapted to the growing fleet of warships and maritime patrol aircraft arrayed against them. One of the new tricks is getting into the databases of shipping companies and their Internet based communications. This information is bought from criminal operatives in London and the Persian Gulf, and provides precise information where the most lucrative and vulnerable ships will be.

Much of the money obtained from ransoms is used to buy goods and services from Persian Gulf merchants and other "specialists." This includes assistance in negotiating with the shipping and insurance companies, as well as other services. This includes intelligence. The Persian Gulf is rife with corruption, and this makes it easier to buy needed information. That's harder to do in London (the center of the maritime insurance industry, and where much information on where the most valuable ships is found). British police have detected some efforts to obtain information for pirates, and believe these efforts are becoming more intense.

As the pirates obtained more information on the best targets, they equipped their mother ships with GPS, radar and satellite phones. Thus the mother ships can be directed to interception courses with targets, so the speed boats towed, or carried, by the mother ships can attack the ships at night, and capture them. The pirate intelligence effort also seeks to find out what kind of security the target ships have. Ships with armed security teams on board are avoided, which is why more ships are carrying that kind of protection.

The pirates also seek information on shipping company security developments in general, in order to stay one jump ahead. This includes equipping pirate boarding parties with explosives and welding equipment to give them a chance of breaking into safe rooms that many ships equip themselves with. If the crew can get to the fortified safe room, after shutting down or disabling the engines and calling for help, the pirates usually leave the ship before a warship shows up. But if the pirates can break into the safe room, they have hostages that will keep the warships away.




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