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The War Nerd / November 18, 2008
By Gary Brecher

Yo ho ho ho time in Somalia! What’s the bestest present kids dream of in faraway Puntland, where piracy is more than a Disney marketing gimmick? A supertanker, that’s what. A Saudi supertanker is the ultimate in stuffed stockings: 100 million gallons of pure crude.

What an Xmas morning that had to be for some sleepy fishing village on the Somali coast! Little Abdul Jihad goes to sleep dreaming of sugarplums-dreaming of picking them off from a hundred meters with his AK—and wakes to find the horizon blotted out by a ship that’s bigger than the whole village.

Every day I love these Somali pirates more. You know that Lefty line, “this is what democracy looks like”? Well, this is what Robin Hood looks like: a bunch of black skeletons swarming over the side with RPGs. These guys used to be humble fishermen, till the Taiwanese and Korean trawlers took advantage of the fact that Somalia has no government to scoop every last sculpin out of the waters they used to fish. No government means no coast guard, so who was going to stop them?

Well, karma went out and traded in its fishing boats for a few fast outboards and some Yemeni guns, and made a career move into the piracy business. Now they are what the NT would call “fishers of men.” And getting rich off it, bling and all the nomad girls you can buy.

So a big hundred million ton shout out to my perps, showin’ your fat Jack-Sparrow-worshipping kiddies what piracy is all about. Keep thinking big, boys. Today that supertanker, tomorrow the cruise ships! All those overfed retirees have relatives who’ll pay big to see their crumbly old folks back in Arizona! Just a word to the wise, just a hint for next time! You can’t miss’em, big white ships that smell like buffet tables and used Depends!

Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to

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Add your own

  • 1. Ripley  |  November 18th, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Nuke ’em from Orbit- it’s the only way to be sure.

    P.S. Don’t worry, they’ll make more. It’s what they do best.

  • 2. Alok  |  November 18th, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    It’s quite amusing to watch the worlds’s most powerful navy sit around scratching its head, wondering what to do next as a bunch of armed-fishermen threaten the supply of its most vital strategic good.

    To be fair, they know what they exactly need to do. Buy some local help, use pirate tactics on pirates, and burn the villages which help pirates. They are just too squeamish to do it.

    In the meantime.. go skinnies!! No small element of schadenfreude here, as all the rich fat people sweat it out on their fancy yachts squinting over the horizon to see if any small black specks are speeding their way.

  • 3. val  |  November 18th, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    no way anyone can hit a plum 100 meters away with an AK, dreaming is right

  • 4. Arch Stanton  |  November 18th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Poor poor Saudis. Their gravy train being siphoned off by freelance skinnies who have the unmitigated gall to gank their product. I can hardly choke back the tears.

  • 5. Gar  |  November 18th, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    This is a great moment. I like the fact that they just pulled the ship into harbor, probably to what was a fantastic party.

    Unfortunately, the party may not last too much longer. This made the papers. Some people that actually count might start getting embarrassed and annoyed.

    These same people actually get worked up when the subject matter turns to disrupting oil supplies.

  • 6. mdekkers  |  November 18th, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Spook Country, by William Gibson, comes with an interesting concept where the CIA tags along with the pirates and then, allowing them to do some searching for things they rather not let other people have, whilst the pirates make off with the loot.

  • 7. chooch  |  November 18th, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Fishermen? Please…these dudes were in Mogadishu ten years 15 years ago massacring their own people for fun. The “Robin Hood” angle of this story should be reserved for dumb kids who wear Che Guevara t-shirts, you can do better than this. Most of that money is spent on hookers and drugs in Mombasa, it doesn’t even find itself back into the Somali community.

  • 8. JFreshInEffect  |  November 18th, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    I thought hookers and drug dealers were the Somali Community.
    Kudos to these guys. I want to see them take a carrier or an Aegis cruiser next.

  • 9. Rune  |  November 18th, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Who doesn’t like a bit of sticking it to the man. Except those sailors they take hostage are mostly poor sods from The Philippines, and those that are going to be hurt economically are Egypt – which gets a good part of its income through the Suez Channel – and China/India, as they see their outsourcing business from Europe being less profitable. + India has to pay premium on things like oil import. I say, wait it out and let China or India take on the pirates. They also have some fine new carrier ships they need to show off.

  • 10. Nestor  |  November 18th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Hey comments are enabled at last. Cool!

    I wonder how they even got aboard, those things are tall!

  • 11. Wanky O'Shea  |  November 18th, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    I blame the Christians missionaries for a lot of this shit. Go to Africa, build hospitals and help solve the infant mortality problem. Then preach the sins of birth control to people that regularly spit out 15 children.
    Result: population explosion. Too many people chasing too little cash. Go figure.

  • 12. Baked Dr. Luny  |  November 18th, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    It’s nice to see comments enabled. I don’t understand why they don’t just mount a heavy machine gun or two on these ships and make swiss cheese of any boat that comes within range. They should either bribe the ICU and the governments of Somaliland and Puntland to crack down on these guys(who have more money right now than any of those groups), or ransom all the ships and hostages and bomb the shit out of Eyl. You should check out the BBC’s article about Eyl, the port city they take all of these ships to. It’s probably the nicest place in the whole country right now.

  • 13. Wengler  |  November 19th, 2008 at 12:11 am

    Pirates now! Pirates forever!

    This is Somalis refusing to get screwed over again and again. People here think westerners are squeamish about killing Somalis? Are you high? Westerners have been killing Africans at a high clip for a very long time. This is westerners being scared of Somalis, which is much much different.

    Somalis versus Saudis? Is there even a choice? If the crew is non-Saudi, I am sure the Saudis would be willing to kill all of them to just get their prize ship back. The Europeans and Americans are concerned with getting their people back in one piece. Saudis that hire mercs to take back a ship? Not so much. The Somalis should just arm the crew and promise them a cut if they defend the ship while it’s being stormed.

  • 14. Tyler Durden  |  November 19th, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Ye especially if the crew isnt muslim the Saudis will definately not give a shit about them.

  • 15. Tyler Durden  |  November 19th, 2008 at 12:53 am

    I am afraid the pirates have bitten much more than what the can chew. They have already been appearing in the news and attracting too much attention. This tanker might be the last straw that will result in all hell being unleashed on them by the rest of the world.

  • 16. Zhlobko Yebic  |  November 19th, 2008 at 12:54 am

    Good story.

    The UK newspaper, the Guardian has a pretty neat photo essay about Somali music downloaders.


  • 17. Robinsod  |  November 19th, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Y’see – the market will solve the problems the market creates. Like, duh!

  • 18. Alok  |  November 19th, 2008 at 3:33 am

    ‘the pirate ship responded by threatening to “blow up the naval warship if it closed on her”,’

    Gotta admire their self-confidence.

  • 19. Klink  |  November 19th, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Proof, as if any more were needed, that pirates are better than ninjas. Unless they’re Ninja Pirates.

  • 20. cphi  |  November 19th, 2008 at 4:13 am

    it wasn’t 100 million gallons, it was ~100 millions dollars value.

  • 21. Thomas_Nolle  |  November 19th, 2008 at 8:52 am

    My favorite fact of this is that the “mother-ship” was a hijacked Nigerian tug. That’s what you call wheeling, dealing, and trading up. My boyz from Eyl could teach our daring Wall St. bailout heroes a thing or two about REAL capitalism.

  • 22. Petkovich  |  November 19th, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I dunno man, this all seem too neatly packaged to attract attention, the NATO and USA attention. Right when I read the USA are losing to the Muslims in Somalia. MY prediction is that we will see a few USA war ships sail there to bring “freedom and democracy” to those people.

  • 23. karl morgan  |  November 19th, 2008 at 10:44 am

    this sounds like a navy seals mission dream come true…..the fact they aren’t involved probably means that the pirates support the united states backed government or visa versa

  • 24. Marignac  |  November 19th, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Great to hear there are still some real people out there, who just want something and get it whatever it takes.
    Keep up the good work, nerd. We need ya !…

  • 25. Boris Pavlov Grozny  |  November 19th, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    This needs a British solution, an old British solution, burn everything within 50 miles of the coast – or get the Ethiopians or Egyptians to do it.

  • 26. Lord of War  |  November 20th, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Now that the skinnies have a taste of the good life, they won’t want to go back.

    It will be fun to watch and see how high they can tech-up their arms to keep the pirate business going.

    Eventually these downloaders are going to have to actually kill a crew or sink a ship to maintain the credibility of their threat. it’s all fun and games ’til the Stingers come out–

  • 27. John Smith  |  November 20th, 2008 at 3:27 am

    #6, interesting point, but this is an oil tanker rather than a container ship. I suppose it could still have had an interesting little gizmo on board, which has since been removed by some nation state ally of the pirates, but it seems no more likely than the plots of any of a dozen less recent, less “respectable” international thriller novels featuring big boats and pirates.

    A supertanker holds about 500,000 “deadweight tons”, which today probably means 1000 kg rather than the old 2240 lb “deadweight ton”, so that’s about 500 million kg of crude oil. A gallon of crude oil weighs about 3.15 kg, so that *is* probably a bit over 100 million gallons, as well as about 100 million dollars worth.

    Another way to do this is to say that a barrel of oil is 42 US gallons, and this ship was carrying about 2 million barrels, which suggests it’s about 84 million gallons.

  • 28. Matt  |  November 20th, 2008 at 5:56 am

    1000 kg is 2204.6 lbs, which is not a world of difference to the lon ton’s 2240 lbs – at least not for the kind of back-of-the-envelope calculations we’re looking at here.

    I’m really curious to see how this pans out – there’s a lot of money at stake and the Saudis tend not to be too picky about the general public’s view of their problem-solving approaches…

  • 29. Snidely Wachovia  |  November 20th, 2008 at 7:59 am

    I love Somalians.

  • 30. mombasa  |  November 20th, 2008 at 10:56 am

    so it took the indian navy to kick the pirates’ a$$ !

    too bad for you gary seems your dream is coming to an end. better concentrate on the bangladesh-burma naval war !!!!!!!!!!

  • 31. Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky  |  November 20th, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Wanky O’Shea,

    The area that stretches from Congo to the Horn of Africa was the world’s dead nigger storage long before the first missionaries moved in. If you can blame the Europeans for anything, it’s for putting up the signs and maybe killing a few people here and there.

    Kind regards,

  • 32. I. Susanin  |  November 20th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    A perfect opportunity has arisen for Mr. Brecher to analyze the effectiveness of Russian built Warships(Missile Frigate “Tabar”) in the Indian Navy in fighting “poor fishermen” with an improvised fleet and an extensive Criminal Network(according to East Africans themselves).

  • 33. mombasa  |  November 20th, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    now another indian warship the mysore joins the party.

  • 34. I. Susanin  |  November 20th, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    They are rotating their ships after the “Tabar” has used up its supplies and must return to port.

  • 35. Jelly Roll  |  November 20th, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    This is every Marines & Call Of Duty players wet dream! I’m suprised Blackwater isnt charging it’s employees bribes to be assigned this mission.

  • 36. John Smith  |  November 21st, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I read in the USA today that Blackwater was getting in on this.

  • 37. Kavuye Toon  |  November 22nd, 2008 at 10:33 am

    This is a beautiful article. Thank you Gary

  • 38. shMiller  |  November 22nd, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Some anti-ship Missiles would spice things up a little. Some C-802s like Hezbollah has would do very nicely, but I guess they have a dependence on radar, which is asking too much…

    Nevertheless, nice to see the underdogs send a couple navy ships to the bottom … just to further the cause of anarchy at the margins and generally mashing the fingers of the smug and dumbly incredulous everywhere.

  • 39. marty  |  November 22nd, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    How’s about a Pirates ‘n Indians article Gary?

  • 40. Jeff Albertson  |  November 23rd, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    I wonder, if someone “accidently” torched a tanker, would the resulting mess be bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill?Would most of it burn? Not that I care about the environment; I just like big fires.

  • 41. Mar C  |  November 25th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    What if they piss into the crude before giving it back?

  • 42. RPG Cunthair  |  November 25th, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Don’t fuck with Sammy. They fucked you white boys before and they will fuck you again. In fact every sand nigger has fucked you up the ass. Go back to your video games already. And you russies: Send down some o’ that white poon since you have forgotten to fuck.

  • 43. Oboe  |  December 1st, 2008 at 2:17 am

    Those Somalis don’t look typically African; they look almost like Italians, or Jews w/ really dark skin and kinky hair.

  • 44. JSJ  |  December 4th, 2008 at 8:26 am

    These Somali pikers wouldn’t pick a fight with a warship… not that they’re scared, just that they aren’t stupid. No speedboat can compare to any nation’s ship-o-the-line. No way, no how.

    Carriers have HUNDREDS of armed sailors and Marines on board. No way a boatful of Somalis would last ten seconds… and if it was an American ship it has Phalanx, which my asshat former bro-in-law used to manufacture for GD and I can guaran-damn-tee it would leave nothing behind but pink mist if any hostile small craft happened into the immediate vicinity.

    Pirates are just wet guerillas, but the cool thing about them is that they are wet guerillas. 😉

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