‘Hang the pirates’

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Norwegian shipping magnate Jacob Stolt-Nielsen believes that stronger measures need to be taken to deal with Somali pirates, saying “The only way to put this business in decline is to hang them.”

He expresses his frustration at what he claims is the international community’s half-hearted approach to piracy, as pirates are often captured and released but seldom tried successfully in international courts. For instance, on Wednesday February 9 the Danish warship HDMS Esbern Snare released six Somali pirates who had been held since December 30, after being suspected of attacking the Danish ship Elly Maersk. They were release along the Somali coast due to a lack of evidence against them. It appears the pirates threw their weapons overboard when the crew of the Esbern Snare boarded their vessel.

In a separate incident on Saturday the 12th, the Esbern Snare stopped a suspicious vessel with two skiffs on its deck. A boarding party found equipment used for pirating ships, including boarding ladders, automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades. 14 suspected pirates were arrested and two Yemeni hostages released, but the pirates were taken ashore and released as there was not enough evidence, despite all the equipment found, for a conviction in a Danish court.
“The only language these pirates understand is force,” Stolt-Nielsen told the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “Sinking their ship will all hands aboard is the way to solve the problem.”

Stolt-Nielsen of Stolt-Nielsen Limited says it stations armed guards on board its vessels, paying approximately US$1 million per month for its some 150 ships. Stolt-Nielsen CEO Niels G Stolt-Nielsen (Jacob’s father) told DN they have also used barbed wire and hot water to repel pirates.

Experts say 2011 will be one of the worst years for piracy – there have already been three successful hijackings in the past week. On February 8, Pirates attacked and boarded the Italian-flagged and owned oil tanker MV Savina Caylyn in the Indian Ocean, with 22 crew and US$60 million worth of crude oil on board. It is currently heading for the Somali coast.

On February 9 the MV Irene SL, a Greek-flagged and Panamanian owned tanker carrying 266 000 tons of crude oil worth US$200 million, was hijacked in the Arabian sea, and last Saturday the bulk carrier MV Sinin was hijacked by Somali pirates 350 nautical miles east of Oman in the northern Arabian Sea.

Presently there are approximately 700 crew and 30 ships being held by pirates, with many of these being used as bargaining tools and human shields – it is common for pirates to bring hostages out on deck and beat them if a warship comes too close. Indeed, pirates are becoming increasingly violent and willing to retaliate against international naval forces. On January 26 an element of the international anti-piracy contingent unsuccessfully tried to free the crew of the captured Beluga Nomination, and killed a pirate in the process. In retaliation the pirates shot and killed a Filipino crewmember.

Jacob Stolt-Nielsen believes eliminating the pirates is worth the risk of retaliation. “It is conceivable the pirates would take revenge on the crews they are already holding hostage, one must realise this. However, this is war, and wars cost lives,” he says.
“Pirates captured in international waters have always been punished with death, often carried out there and then. The Romans had problems in northern Africa, the Vikings were pirates, and North African so-called ‘Barbary Corsair’ pirates controlled the Strait of Gibraltar for hundreds of years,” Stolt-Nielsan said. “The business will only stop when it starts costing the pirates too high a price.”



Many pirates were hanged in the 17th and 18th centuries, most notoriously Captain William Kidd (1645-1701) and ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham (1682-1720). The last pirate to be hanged was Nat Gordon in New York in 1862. Most pirates were given summary trials and then “hanged from the nearest yardarm.” As infamous captains, Kidd and Rackham received formal trials before execution. Their bodies were afterwards enclosed in iron cages and left to swing from gibbets until the flesh rotted off them.