A few screen shots from that ellusive Aegis employee blog
Pentagon News of the Weird

Is the Underwriting Industry Lobbying for a New War on Pirates?

I received via email from Carlos Ortiz an interesting December 8th article on marine security, "Counting the costs of seaborne security" by  Alex Pinto, director of CTC Marine and Risk Consultancy, Singapore. The article was distributed via Lloyds List. It has one really fascinating bit:

As one final observation, it is worth pointing out that the move by underwriters to make piracy a war rather than marine peril may have some unintended consequences. When a vessel is missing, there will probably be uncertainty as to which policy and which underwriter is liable. If this causes any delay, it will make recovery that much more difficult. It might also complicate matters when a vessel goes missing in relatively calm waters.

Do tell. Is the underwriting industry pushing for a War on Pirates? Really? What is the proposed Theater for this war? Somalia, maybe?

And if there is a War on Pirates, who is going to show up to fight it? Who are the guys in the White Hats supposed to be? Surely not the US Marine Corps? That would be stupid and seems highly unlikely because it is the habit of the US military to hunt the insurgents back to their bases and that would involve the US military going into Somalia. And in the background of the Top Cat investigation, the possiblity of a planned Black Hawk Down reenactment has been pretty thoroughly debunked. So it's not the Marines.

Then who? It wouldn't be . . . no, it couldn't be . . .  not Top Cat?

If that weren't so dangerous an improbability, it would be really funny.

But then again, Maryann Johnson, Top Cat VP, claims that Peter Casini is not the President of his company and no longer owns the company and that the company is owned by "investors" and that there are "over 50" of them.  But the underwriting industry and the shipping industry wouldn't be credulous enough to have bought Top Cat, would they? Underwriters are supposed to be able to do math and assess risks.

Perhaps someone has been told Top Cat's really a CIA front company? It ain't so.

So, tell us. Are we going to have a real war? Or a faux one?

(Um, did some underwriters association answer their Nigerian spam?)

UPDATE 12/13: Where did the idea for conceiving of the current pirate situation as a war come from? It seems to originate with a report written by Aegis Defense Services:

On August 1, 2005, the foreign ministers of the three littoral states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore met to discuss maritime safety and security in the Malacca Straits. They concluded their talks with a stronger commitment to addressing comprehensively the issue of maritime security, including the threats of piracy, armed robbery and terrorism. The meeting marked the recognition by the littoral states that much remains to be done in terms of improving the safety and security of the Malacca Straits.

The situation became all the more urgent following the recent decision by Lloyd's Market Association's Joint War Committee to declare the Malacca Straits an area that is in jeopardy of "war, strikes, terrorism and related perils." The decision to add the Straits of Malacca to the Committee's list of high-risk areas was taken following recommendations by the private defense consultants, Aegis Defence Services, who are said to have carried out risk assessments on the area. Others on the list are countries such as Iraq, Somalia and Lebanon. Although the Committee has a purely advisory role, the result of this declaration could be dramatically higher insurance costs for the many thousands of ships that transit the Straits on an annual basis.

The Aegis report stated that due to the fact that there had been an intensification of the weaponry and techniques used by the pirates in the Straits, they are now largely indistinguishable from terrorists. In addition, it stated that the Straits are a target for terrorism. The report cited a statement by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in which he spoke about hitting enemy countries through their economies. It also highlighted Jemaah Islamiyah's (J.I.) past interest in the traffic passing through the Straits.

Ship owners seem to have had some objections to the higher premiums they had to pay resulting from the labelling of some areas as "war risk areas." In any case, the world seems smaller every day.  (See also the statement by the The Joint War Committee (JWC), representing the London marine insurance community; and Eaglespeak's commentary last August.)