Sunday, 6 January 2013

Privateers Versus Pirates - The Typhon Navy In The Indian Ocean

It has been announced that the British company Typhon will launch the first private naval force in two centuries. It will include a 10,000 tonne flagship supported primarily by fast assault craft. Funded by Simon Murrey, head of Glencore, and other investors it will be captained by an ex-Royal Navy Commodore who has been busy recruiting other sailors and Marines to the force in an attempt to create a formidable convoy protection and Quick Reaction Force (QRF).

It has been designed primarily to fill perceived strategic failings the multinational force attempting to deal with the problem of Somali piracy off the Horn of Africa. Typhon CEO argues 'They can’t do the job because they haven’t got the budget and deploying a billion-pound warship against six guys [pirates] with $500 of kit is not a very good use of the asset.' While this makes some strategic sense the NATO, EU and other missions around Somalia have had quite a lot of success in curbing the freedom of the pirates and have even started attacking their land bases, the only strategic that can conceivably work in the long term. The main threat of international piracy can in fact be said to have moved to the West African coast. So why has Typhon come out now to be the privately-owned white knight of the international community?

Clearly profit is the driving factor here. Typhon have struck at the precise point at which the threat of piracy has lowered yet the fear of the pirates remains high. As a for-profit company this situation is perfect as it limits collateral costs (damage and deaths from pirate attacks) while allowing the naval force to get investment by international companies funding their convoys out of fear of kidnap and loss of property.
The inclusion of heavily armored fast-patrol boats full of Marines toting M-4s  and sniper rifles with ranges of 2 km is designed specifically as a scare tactic against pirate forces rather than a need for the offensive and defensive tactical advantages.

While this is an exciting development in the narrative of anti-piracy activities it is not strategically important or altruistic in nature. It is a modern innovation in the art of the privateer, making money in maritime warfare as mercenaries. Typhon is not interesting in protecting Somalia or its people; indeed its profit is derived from the continuation of the pirate threat and the poverty and anarchism of Somalia. 

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