Fool Blog: An Open Letter to Somali Pirates

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Ahoy, Somali Pirates,

Well, someone ate their Wheaties yesterday morning, eh? Word on the street is that you've hijacked yet another ship. This time, an oil tanker. But not just any ol' oil tanker, no. This one holds 2,000,000 barrels of crude oil worth roughly $112,000,000.

Also, this one belongs to Saudi Aramco.

Now, maybe I'm just unusually paranoid about trifling with mysterious corporate juggernauts after seeing Quantum of Solace last night, but I'm a bit concerned that you've bitten off more than you can chew here. I mean, really, you thought you'd hijack $112,000,000 worth of product from the crown prince of oil companies and walk away unscathed, with a handsome booty to boot? Really? Really?

See, Saudi Aramco has a reputation to protect here. As the world's largest oil company, it can't afford to be flexed on by a group of two-bit pirates. Further, while Saudi Arabia can't go off half-cocked, let's recall that this is a national oil company you're messing with, not some weak-kneed public firm like ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) (NYSE: RDS-B  ) , or Total (NYSE: TOT  ) .

Unlike those puny publicly traded peers, Saudi Aramco doesn't have a roster of shareholders that includes university endowments and teachers' unions. Its owner, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, sports seven frigates with missile ranges up to 180 kilometers, four corvettes built by the U.S. Navy, attack boats, helicopters, and 1,200 marines.

Frankly, if it weren't for the fact that you've got a fortune of black gold under your feet, I wouldn't have been shocked to see you go down in a literal blaze of glory.

Of course, it isn't like you're without leverage here. After all, you do have around two dozen hostages from varied nationalities, not to mention that you've got a fully-loaded Saudi freighter coasting towards the pirate haven of Eyl. It is entirely possible that the Saudis could negotiate with you. And given the other option (one that involves Keyser Söze-style negotiation tactics), you'd better hope this is the route they choose.

Of course, there's always a third option, which is that they call your bluff. What would you do with 2,000,000 barrels of oil, anyway? Talk about an illiquid liquid. Unless you've got a few thousand miles of steel pipe or a couple million barrels lying around, you're probably stuck with something folks call a "stranded resource." Throw in Dennis Hopper, and we're looking at a scene straight out of Waterworld.

Anyway, don't go killing those hostages. Doing so makes it open season for bringing down the hammer on you. Plus, given that the hostages come from a range of countries, you'd risk an onslaught of undesirable attention from a host of very irked countries. Dare I say it, this brazen, foolish theft of yours might be the tipping point on the international community deciding that they're no longer going to put up with your playing pirate anymore.

One way or the other, I'm afraid some of your boys will end up walking the plank for this one. In a way, I hate to say it. After all, I do admire your gusto.

Joe "Jolly Roger" Magyer

Joe Magyer owns no shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Joe's friend Brandy was born on National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Total is an Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (80)

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  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2008, at 10:17 AM, prginww wrote:

    arr matey. I love the irony. It was North African Muslim pirates who we were forced to bring down in the early 1800s b/c the power countries of Europe wouldn’t do it. A grudge is still held against the US for that action, as it sparked the downfall of the single Muslim Empire and threw a wrench in their economy built on slave trade and theft (Maybe we forget the past, but they don't. They are better for it.)

    Now, a Muslim Theocracy has to pay the piper; they will be forced to shut these yahoos down, because the US has over extended itself, and (just like 200 years ago) Europe won't do squat.

    Where's all the rum gone?

  • Report this Comment On November 20, 2008, at 3:24 AM, prginww wrote:

    You do indeed forget the past RHaganC! or at least reinterpret it.

    The 1st Barbary War was fought by Americans against North African Pirates. But it was so they wouldn't have to pay ransoms which every country was doing at the time.

    Europe did nothing?

    The second Barbary War involved Britain and Holland as well as America and afterwards, all of the region and almost all the world fell under European Colonial rule. Somalia was under French, Italian and British rule. So it was they who brought the region under control (not that I agree with colonialism)

    Meanwhile, slavery continued for two more generations in the US. It was the Brits who ended slave trading.

    Currently there are naval ships from many countries in the region, including American, British, Danish, German, Spanish, Turkish, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Russian, Indian, Malaysian and Canadian!

    What part of these facts make you say "(just like 200 years ago) europe won't do squat"?

    Another example of a fantasy history where America does all the heavy lifting. Please, honour the sacrifices of others, whether it be in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan or further back during WW2.

    As for the article, I think you're right, the hammer will soon fall on these guys, but likely it will only end when there's a real government in Somalia. The piracy died down during the six months when the Islamic Courts ran the country with an iron fist.

  • Report this Comment On November 20, 2008, at 12:01 PM, prginww wrote:

    It took India to finally bring the pirates down!

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2008, at 9:12 AM, prginww wrote:

    Sorry Joe,

    There aint no military force sufficient to stop this little racket. Too many square miles of ocean, too many pirates at sea and too well organised. These pirates are linked to the powers that be in Mogadishu. And they're bringing in more income than the authorities are able to generate from their own population. Unfortunately, the US doesn't want the hard-line Islamic force that is present poised to take Mogadishu having control of Somalia - despite the fact that they would curb this practice.

    Nooo, this is going to require a political solution, so let's hope that Arab nations like the Saudi Kingdom can help broker a solution that allows more moderate Muslim groups to form a coalition against the Al-Qaeda lovers who presently stand to regain control of Somalia.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2008, at 12:05 PM, prginww wrote:

    Without a doubt this is one of the most ridiculous and idiotic blog postings I've ever seen. The only thing more hideously stupid are the replies.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2008, at 10:06 PM, prginww wrote:

    Forgot Option 4, which is already in the works...

    Direct Islamic Militants to fix this little pirate problem. Pirating muslim owned property. BIG NO NO!

    We're waiting for some good YouTube pirate battles.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2008, at 10:57 PM, prginww wrote:

    So where is the clamor to have these ships pay tax to this country for doing commerce in its waters?

    people don't go crazy like this unless they are being taken advantage of

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2008, at 10:49 AM, prginww wrote:

    I say Go Pirates, you've got a hideout here at my place!, the reason why these Shipping Companies and these oil Corporations are mad, is because they don't like the competition. The Companies are just going to pass the costs on to us and pirate our booty anyway. Lets see how many time they pay the pirates before something is really done. They will negotiate and come to terms and the pirates will give safe passage across the waters. But in the mean time the oil companies will not change the price because they will say the risk still stands. Fact is I love times like these... I love to wave at them as they pass by. GO PIRATES!!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2008, at 3:06 PM, prginww wrote:

    Aye, as a real Mariner, I say that the article is mostly correct, and (swissrobinson) has the right take on the situation. Also correct is the notion that America is preeminent in this situation.

  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2008, at 10:19 PM, prginww wrote:

    US navy provides Saudi service for a fee:

    1) seals

    2) convoys

  • Report this Comment On November 25, 2008, at 12:56 PM, prginww wrote:

    Why do I have a creeping feeling that we will soon see Saudi Aramco hiring Dick Cheney as head of anti-piracy efforts?

    But yes, there is a lesson to be learned from the theft of illiquid assets, and I'm not just saying that because my efforts to sell Mt. Rushmore on Ebay were once again thwarted (and besides, no one seemed willing to pay the shipping).

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2008, at 9:23 AM, prginww wrote:

    They're selling Somali Pirate t-shirts on ebay now. Is this a great country or what?

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2009, at 1:58 AM, prginww wrote:

    More on OPERATION BLACKBEARD: The Somali pirates have gotten a moral boost, the height of the Empire State Building, while Madam Secretary of State and our President put our prestige at the bottom of the Grand Cañon and shame all which is American, and on top of that this President has the gull to bask on the success of the rescue mission as though he was one of our superb SEALS. Nothing has been accomplished by the by The President and his Madam Secretary of State to be celebrating about. If anything we ought to be mourning our lose of respect and fear by a small band of pirates. Now the pirates have learned that our President is a weak leader, and they are absolutely right!

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2009, at 2:02 AM, prginww wrote:

    OPERATION BLACKBEARD: Somalia is a backward and lawless territory inhabited by nine million of the poorest of the poor; there they stand on their long, long shores watching the wealth of the world floating by. It is understandable that they would want some of it, and that the greedy and desperate eventually would find it simple, easy and acceptable to pirate. Understanding the reason does not condone their behavior, does not lessen the crime or annul the punishment. Blackbeard, literally, became a royal nuisance and he was hunted down, and in 1718 his head hung at the bow of the sloop that caught up with him. Then and now, that is the perfect ending for the romantic adventures of any pirate.

    Certainly the US is a religious country, but that does not mean that we should pander to criminals because they’re skinny, without soap and they want our toys. The territory of Somalia has been inhabited by the same tough skinny people for THOUSANDS of years, and they have survived on goat hair and oxygen very well. That’s their way and they are fine, they are adapted to their landscape and their culture is part of it. Our problem is that we refuse to accept that their culture is different, and that they don’t want to be like us; furthermore, they don’t need to be like us. Leave them alone and don’t turn them into beggars, either. Let’s be realistic, for a moment. We are humans and we are violent by nature, ask any member of a military force, any sweetheart in death row or any pirate, for that matter. It is silly to pretend that there would be the possibility of washing that out of our instincts. Only last year, the Israelis finally had enough of the Hamas rockets and kamikaze youth bombers… Ah, but all is quiet now. A spanking once in a while works wonders, the Somalis need their diminutive glutei minimum paddled nicely, too, because their pirates are being a nuisance. Simple!

    Truthfully, I am ashamed of the man we have chosen as our President, and I am angered by his choice for Secretary of State, for they are both weak. This Madam Secretary and this President are already pandering to a rag tag gang of pirates and putting us in a position of weakness and shame. The Secretary of State, on her televised statement told the world that the waters off Somalia are three times the size of Texas and implied that it’s impossible for us to deal with that. In other word she is admitting defeat and refusing to fight. Now, I’m in great fear that Mr. Obama will be sending them a stimulus package and welfare instead of blasting the pirates out of the water and their lairs. What is wrong with these officials! Have they forgotten we prevail in WWII when we fought enemies of the stature of Hitler and Rommel; I strongly recommend that the President and his Madam Secretary should at least rent the movie Patton, and learn something!

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2009, at 1:43 AM, prginww wrote:

    I wrote a blog entry on how to stop the piracy. <a href="">Harden the ships!</a>

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2011, at 9:21 AM, prginww wrote:

    Looks like they made out quite well, actually. $3M paid out, and nobody died.

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