Wednesday, November 28


In my earlier post "The US Navy's 'Kobayashi Maru'" I covered the DANICA WHITE's Captain's suggestion that the action of the US Navy to stop the pirates (by destroying their boats) resulted in the hijackers holding the ship for ransom instead of just making a quick robbery as they claimed was their initial intention.
"The efficient US guns managed to hit all three boats (one large and two smaller ones), and one of the ABs was ordered to cut the towing line. This changed the whole situation", says Niels Nielsen. "The hi-jackers’ plan was that they would leave the ship at about 20 nautical miles from the shore with their loot, nothing more, according to their original plans and confirmed by their conversation during the days onboard."

The loss of three boats made the hi-jackers rather desperate as the boats were hired from somebody else, and now they had to cover the losses. So instead of leaving the Danica White they were forced to take the ship and claim a ransom to gain money to pay for the boats. - Scandinavian Shipping Gazette
Everyone is entitled to their point of view, and this certainly is heavily influenced by their experiences. Now, it seems that the captain himself is on the receiving end of some criticism, this time from Danish Authorities:
In a report, the maritime authority said the captain did not follow standard procedure and post a crew member to scout for pirates when the Danica White sailed into waters off the Somali coast, where the risk of hijackings is big.

The captain was alone on the bridge when the pirates arrived in three small boats and, unnoticed, boarded the ship from astern, the report said. - International Herald Tribune

So why was the Captain alone? (An even bigger unanswered question is why was the Captain standing a watch?) Scandinavian Shipping Gazette has more details:

Bad watch keeping on the Danica White - SSG-RINGKØBING. The outlook and watch keeping was too slack on board the Danica White, when it was on the voyage from Sharjah to Mombasa in June. That was the main reason for the capture is the conclusion from the Danish Maritime Authorities’ Investigations group. The captain had some disciplinary problems with some of the crew members on board, who did not want to take part of the watch keeping during the voyage. Instead they did maintenance and cleaning in the accommodation. No one on board discovered the hi-jacker’s before they actually was standing on the deck of Danica White and lead to a 82 days capture off the coast of Somalia.

“This is like when a thief breaks into your house. No one is responsible for the incident”, says shipowner Jørgen Folmer, H. Folmer & Co, to several newspapers in Denmark to the question if he feels guilt for what happened. Published: 22.11.07 15.42 - Scandinavian Shipping Gazette
Sounds like there are some 'sailors' that should have their documents canceled. In my limited time at sea, very rarely did I see a captain put up with problem crewmembers. Almost always, they were gone before you could even say 'goodbye', and no, being annoying was not a reason to fire someone, being incompetent or failing to do your job were. Maybe sailors on Danish-flag ships have more rights when it comes to keeping a job you don't want to do, but I cannot see how it is possible to burden a Captain with crewmembers that refuse to do their jobs. After all, watchkeeping was their job.

A ship is a self-contained unit. Each person needs to do their job for the ship to function properly. In this case, that did not happen and it cost many people time and money. The cost could have been much worse, costing lives and resulting in the total loss of the ship.

In the case of pirates, the trick is keeping them from getting aboard. To accomplish that, you need to see them first. A properly manned lookout would have spotted the approach of the pirates, enabling the ship to start evasive maneuvers, which might have permitted help to arrive in time to have stopped the pirates prior to them getting aboard and gaining control of the ship.

Note: The report by the Danish Maritime Authorities is available in Danish only at the moment, but they do promise an English translation in the near future.

The US Navy's 'Kobayashi Maru' - 11 Nov 07

Danish Maritime Authority - Homepage


Anonymous said...

"The efficient US guns." ....gotta file that one away.

Fred Fry said...

The pirate boats were sunk. How much more efficient do you want?

Had the ship's watch detected the pirate's approach, perhaps the Navy would have arrived in time to neutralize the pirates before they took control of the DANICA WHITE.