Quest Taken By Pirates - At The Risk Of Repeating Myself...

demonboy

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How sad that Quest is the latest boat to be taken by pirates. I've blogged my own thoughts on this, however, and at the risk of repeating myself I wish to reiterate, once again, some basic yet important considerations on passage planning.

There are a number of boats who have been coming through here (India), arrogantly exclaiming that ‘it’s just a lottery, I’ll take my chances’ when referring to passage planning. Two such boats who refused to listen to us when we told them to follow the coast and go over the top of the Arabian Sea just went straight ahead and took a rhumb line from Cochin to Salalah. A week later they returned with their tails between their legs after attacks off the Lakshwadeep Islands and other piracy reports made them realise the futility of their sail plans.

It appears as if s/y Quest tried to do the same route as the position of the attack suggests they too went straight across.

Why, why, why will sailors not listen to the advice given by the various task forces out there? Why do they not discuss and debate and share information and ideas and tactics with other sailors? Why are these people not using the available data on the internet that is updated daily? Why do they arrogantly believe that their sail plans are better than those who have done the passage many times before? Why are sailors not doing the utmost to minimise all risks? And why are sailors, like a chap here this morning, still saying things like “if pirates approach my boat I’ll just shoot them out the water”?

I hope for a speedy solution to this latest travesty but I stand by a statement I got lambasted for making previously: some sailors are either arrogant or ignorant. Or both.
 

Sandyman

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Sheer & utter stupidity.

I find it hard to any sympathy for them.

No doubt they were relying on there God to protect them.

They will be lucky if they get out of this with their heads.
 

tomsampson

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What now for the yachts trying to get to the Red Sea?

The first thing that we yachtsmen have to recognise is that the situation this year is very different that that of the past. The yachtsmen are in grave danger and have been caught out by the change of tactics of the pirates.

In 2010 when I organised and led the MF convoy of 27 yachts our greatest fear was capture between Salalah and Aden. No one bothered to sail in convoys in any other area although yachts would sail together, in sight if possible. I felt strongly, as did most others, that large convoys were not been given any form of protection by the naval forces for what was a 5 day passage. However, I now accept that the Naval forces of 27 or so ships are overstretched and nuable even to carry out their primary task of protecting ships carrying humanitarian aid so we, the yachtsmen, cannot expect any assistance.

This year the pirates have changed tactics in a big way.
1. A look at the IMB live pirate map shows that they are concentrating their efforts in an area bounded roughly by the Northern tip of the Maldives, Salalah and Masirah
2. The pirates are now in command of over 20 captured merchant vessels which they are using as mother ships. They are, therefore, free to roam anywhere in relative comfort. The skiffs are hoisted aboard and only used when they have chosen a target. The hostages held on board ensure that they are safe from the Naval forces (The Korean rescue was probably a one off)
3. The pirates have already taken hostages off a ship and put them onto the mothership, abandoning the captured vessel.
4. There have only been 3 attacks (1 successful) in the area between Salalah and Aden.
5. The pirates are proving to be more ruthless and had no compunction in killing 2 hosatages when they were attacked.

What does this mean for the yachtsmen?

The background is that most yachtsmen circumnavigating prefer to go to the Mediterranean. The alternative is round the Cape of Good Hope and then a long run up the Southern Atlantic to Brazil and the Caribbean. Except for those that left Australia last year the piracy problem has never been considered a insurmountable, albeit a dangerous issue. Venezueala, for example was much more dangerous. So the yachts that left Thailand and Malaysia this year did so with a scenario similar to that prevailing last year. The danger would be near the IRTC but no yacht in the last 6 years had been attacked in that area.
By the time the yachts (perhaps as many as 100) had reached Galle, Cochin or the Maldives the situation is as we see it now. What are the choices for the yachts?
1. Take a route up to Mumbai then follow the coast and cross the arabian gulf to Salalah.
2. Return to Thailand and Malaysia. That can't be done until the weather is more favourable later in the year. There are visa complications for extended stays in the Maldives and India and only those who already had obtained a visa for India before entering are allowed to do so. (so those that don't already have a visa can't now go to any Indian port)
3. Put the yacht on a ship transporter - this became possible when the seven seas company offered to send a ship to Male and pick up yachts there and take them to Marmaris, Turkey. I believe there are at least 10 yachts taking this option. The ship will upload between the 15 -25 the March.
4. Ignore the pirate area of operations and sail through it to Salalah - which is what the Quest has done if they sailed directly from Mumbai towards Salalah.
5. Go via South Africa - again it can't be done now because of the adverse weather - yachts traditionally head off for SA about October. The visa problems occur and where do you go until October? Chagos is one option or return to Thailand later.
6 . Take a route that avoids the worst of the pirate zone. For example from the maldives or Cochin sail to a point 100nms due of Suqutra island (off the coast of Somalia) then head North and then follow the coast 12nms offshore to Aden or directly into the Red Sea. Traditionally this would be a bad route because in the past it was where the pirates were more likely to be. That doesn't seem to be the case any more.

The convoy option on any route to Salalah is also questionable. If the pirates choose to take hostages on board the mothership then a convoy of 10 or more yachts would provide 20 or more hostages worth, say, $1 million each and even at half that they would be worth more than the Saudi tanker was ransomed for.

There are no easy solutions, a ship transporter is clearly the safest but there's just isn't enough capacity, this year at least, to take all the yachts and at $650 a ft might be out of reach for some. Whichever route is taken I wish everyone a safe passage and fair winds. My sincere sympathies lie with the crew and families of the Quest.
 

demonboy

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Apologies for not replying sooner. See BBC website Africa section.

Yes, they were a Blue Water Rally boat. My understanding is thus, based upon hear-say:

Quest went off for a trip inland leaving their boat in Cochin. In that time the rest of the rally, who had already delayed their departure because of the situation in Egypt, eventually decided that they would break up into smaller groups from Cochin.

After that decision was made it appears as if they made it to the Mumbai area and made the decision to stick together instead of breaking into smaller groups. Their passage plan from Mumbai to Oman seemed fair and sensible.

Whilst the rest of the rally were in the Mumbai area Quest returned from their trip and left Cochin. We assumed they had left to join the rest of the rally but it appears as if they went straight from Salalah, either from Cochin or Goa. I'm uncertain.

Perhaps one of the rally organisers can shed some light on my third-hand hear-say.

In response to Tom Samson - you are absolutely correct in saying the situation has changed rapidly in such a short space of time. Even since we came down from Turkey (leaving 2009) the piracy picture has changed completely. Look at what's happening around India now.

People passage planning, therefore, should be aware of these changes and take all the data on board to make informed decisions, not arrogantly wave their arms dismissively making stupid comments like 'it's a lottery' or 'I'll shoot any pirate who approaches my boat'. This displays such a level of ignorance of the current situation it confounds me.
 

sarabande

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and the likely response the next time there is a threat to US citizens ? Probably a very robust one !
 

Grehan

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Very sad news. :(
But the U.S providing a 'robust response' to the next one is, practically speaking, a near-impossibility. These are completely lawless, well organised, well resourced and well-financed murderous gangs operating from a remote part of a huge country without any government or law, in a gigantic area of ocean. Even if Uncle Sam did respond robustly, as has happened in other hostage situations there is the strong likelihood that the captives would be killed either by their captors or accidentally by the rescuers.
The few successful instances (a French one springs to mind, I think) are the exception to this. This isn't stealth bombers 'taking out' one of Saddam's bunkers with a laser guided missile, or Crockett and Tubbs cruising the 'hood looking for the bad hombres.
 

MBullock

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very sad indeed. One thing that struck me from the BBC article "The US Navy said it had been closely monitoring the vessel once it learned it had been hijacked, sending four warships to the area.". It's an unfortunate fact that the UK navy probably doesn't have 4 ships to send anymore :( which can only benefit the criminals.
 

demonboy

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That is just awful news. Awful. Needless to say we have suspended our article from our blog.

This piracy situation and the situation in Somalia is one of the worst travesties in recent history. Our thoughts go out to family, friends and all sailors in the Indian Ocean right now.
 
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Sy-Revolution

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very sad indeed. One thing that struck me from the BBC article "The US Navy said it had been closely monitoring the vessel once it learned it had been hijacked, sending four warships to the area.". It's an unfortunate fact that the UK navy probably doesn't have 4 ships to send anymore :( which can only benefit the criminals.

Probably not but then the Chandlers made it home (in the end), the crew of the Quest didn't, nor did the skipper of that French boat. Softly, softly catchee monkey......

There seems to be some disagreement over who shot first......................

Why the insurance company that paid out first time around was allowed to do so is beyond me.
 
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