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Have the Pirates Read the Market Right?

For the first time ever, Somali pirates have seized a US-flagged vessel – one operated by one of DoD’s primary shipping contractors, according to the New York Times.

Pirates commandeered a United States-flagged container ship with 20 American crew members off the coast of Somalia on Wednesday, the first time an American-crewed ship was seized by pirates in the area.

The container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was carrying thousands of tons of relief aid to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the company that owns the ship said.

The ship was taken by pirates at about 7:30 a.m. local time, 280 miles southeast of the Somali city of Eyl, a known haven for pirates, a spokesman for the United States Navy said. It is owned and operated by Maersk Line Limited, a United States subsidiary of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, the Danish shipping giant.

The Maersk Alabama was at least the sixth commercial ship commandeered by pirates this week off the Horn of Africa, one of the most notoriously lawless zones on the high seas, where pirates have been operating with near impunity despite efforts by many nations, including the United States, to intimidate them with naval warship patrols.

Piracy in this part of the world has been a growth industry, but this is the first time an American vessel has been seized. And it’s hard to imagine the pirates failed to notice that their prey was flying an American flag. Have U.S. ships been spared until now because pirates feared the last president more than they fear this one, or is it merely coincidence? Time will tell, but the initial response from the White House is a weak one:

A presidential spokesman says the White House is assessing a course of action to resolve the hijacking of a U.S.-flagged ship off the coast of Somalia.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that the White House was monitoring the incident closely. Said Gibbs: “Our top priority is the personal safety of the crew members on board.”
The White House offered no other immediate details about what actions it was considering.

Perhaps once more facts are in, the White House will make clear that the United States does not negotiate with hostage takers and does not pay ransoms. This is one area where Barack Obama might want to take a lesson from Russia:

If a stronger response is not forthcoming soon, you might want to consider buying stock in a yellow ribbon manufacturer.

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