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Pirate Action Groups?

March 23, 2010

The Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803).

PAG-pirate actions groups is apparently the official title for the modern buccaneers preying on commercial shipping in the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters. Here is the story from EU NAVFOR Somalia:

The success of EU NAVFOR and other international patrols close to the coast of Somalia has forced the pirates to move further out to sea. Demonstrating the flexibility and reach of naval forces, TROMP has responded by moving into new operating areas. Last week’operations, with five pirate action groups (PAGs) disrupted, have shown the success of this strategy.

That just fascinates me to no end that we now have acronyms for these part-time fisherman now turned terror of the sealanes! Thank goodness for the EU, but I fear they are in over their heads with too few ships and binding constrictions about what to do with the pirates:

TROMP’s impressive haul includes the destruction of several mother ships and skiffs, small boats used by pirates, as well as the confiscation of weapons and ammunition and the gathering of intelligence. A total of thirty one suspects were detained before being released with sufficient fuel and water to reach safety.

Much like we defeated the German U-boat crews in WW 2, catch and release. Oh, wait…

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 24, 2010 5:27 pm

    “Mike, you baited me”

    I took a chance you were still out there. Thanks so much for the expert advice!

  2. March 24, 2010 4:06 pm

    Mike, you baited me.

    Sloops, schooners and brigs along with pirogues in the Gulf of Mexico were the go to vessels for just about every self-respecting buccaneer, pirate and privateer from Michel de Grammont to Jean Laffite.

    The exceptions of the Golden Age, Edward Teach’s Queen Anne’s Revenge for instance, were just that: exceptions. Three mast frigates are slow by comparison and their deep drafts make them impossible to hide in shallow cays and inlets.

    But then if you’re Blackbeard, you don’t really need to hide…

  3. Matt permalink
    March 23, 2010 7:26 pm

    Ultimately, I think it’ll be land-based air patrols (P-3s and UASs) and not surface vessels that will give us the edge against maritime piracy. Ships and helos are great for going in for the kill, but they can’t cover nearly enough water.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 23, 2010 6:00 pm

    I think almost everyone on the planet knows a little English. TV, music, videos, video games, are international ambassadors, for better or worse.

    “Skiffs and whalers”-a big difference from the giant 3 masted brigs the Pirates sailed in the movies. I understand the main vessel during the Golden Age of Piracy were tiny coastal craft. Our new friend Pauline might have more info on this subject!

  5. Hudson permalink
    March 23, 2010 2:38 pm


    I did the Wiki on Somali language too and shortened it to Arabic, which as you have pointed out, is technically incorrect.

    papa legba,

    The cell phone negotiators would almost certainly be able to communicate to a limited extent in English, and may well be multi-lingual. The little guy in the skiff has probably rehearsed his surrender routine honed from survivors of previous captures.

  6. papa legba permalink
    March 23, 2010 2:19 pm

    Somalia is a grimly fascinating place. The pirates actually employ a surprising array of specialists– accountants, traders, diplomats, and that’s not considering the navigators and other seamen that even the basest armed thugs need to operate out of sight of shore. The major havens are served by ad hoc cellphone networks that apparently have the cheapest international rates in the world.

  7. D. E. Reddick permalink
    March 23, 2010 1:31 pm


    Somali is a member of the East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Arabic, on the other hand, is a Semitic language. But, Somali was written for centuries in Arabic script. Now, a Latin alphabet is the dominant form of written Standard Somali (there are several dialects and closely related languages).

    These PAGs appear to have a near standard composition of one 10 meter motherboat / whaler and two 7 meter skiffs manned by ten to twelve pirates (sometimes more). Leaving two members aboard the mothership then allows the two skiffs to each typically carry four or five pirates. Or, that’s my impression from all of the reports that I’ve read.

  8. Hudson permalink
    March 23, 2010 1:09 pm

    I wonder what the lingua franca of the pirate-naval powers exchanges is. Somali is a variant of Arabic. Do all the navies speak some English? Have Arabic interpreters? Do the Somalis know some English?

    Or is it more a matter of grunts and hand signals, and pointing the machine gun this way or that? If so, how do the navies express complex thoughts to their captives like “Sorry, but you won’t be returning home for dinner?”

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