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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"

"The Taking Of M/T Biscaglia"

Three Brits Mount A Battle

If Only They Had Been Armed

On The Scene Off Somalia

Feature Date: Jan. 9 2009

Event Date: Nov. 26 2008

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"Overlooking Runway 25 - Right, at Los Angeles International Airport"

On The Scene -- Off Somalia

 A 2009 Countryman & McDaniel

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"The Attack On M/V Zhen Hua 4" - Dec. 2008

"M/V Ciudad de Ushuaia Stuck At The Pole" - Dec. 2008

"The Taking of M/T Sirius Star" - Somalia Pirates Take Supertanker - Stakes Raised - Nov.- Jan. 2008

"The Death of Hercules" - Nov. 2008

"Fedra Backs In" - Death of M/V Fedra" - Oct. 2008

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"JAXPORT Jumble" - August 2008

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"Recurring Dream" - M/V Norwegian Dream - May 2008

"Paradise & Pirates" - S/V Le Ponant - April 2008

"The Light At The End of The Tunnel" - M/V Zhen Hua 10 & 23 - Mar. 2008

"Mess At Manzanillo" - M/V CMA CGM Dahlia - Mar. 2008

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"Kwanyang Crane Kaboom" - Nov. 2007

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"Full Speed Ahead" - M/V Alva Star - Nov. 2006

"Where The Trade Winds Blew" - Oct. 2006

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"Mis-Fortune" - M/V Hyundai Fortune - March 2006

"Scheldt Snafu!" - M/V Grande Nigeria - Feb. 2006

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"Backhaul !" - for July 2005

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M/T Vicuna Explodes - for Jan. 2005

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The Cargo Letter Photo Gallery of Transport Loss




"The Taking of M/T Biscaglia"

On The Scene

Off Somalia

If Only The Brits Had Been Armed

M/T Biscaglia In Better Days

M/T Biscaglia
FLAG: Liberia

IMO No.: 8406339

Class Relation: In DNV Class - 105 - Tanker for Oil & Chemicals

Signal Letters: A8FH3

Home Port: Monrovia

M/T Biscaglia
Owner: Winged Foot Shipping LLC

Manager: Ishima Pte. Ltd.

Yard: Odense Staalskibsværft A/S (111020)

Year Built: 1986

Tonnage: 27,350 DWT

A Cargo Nightmare Prize Contender

The Date: Nov. 26 2008

The Time: 100 Agonising Minutes

The Place: Off Somalia

From The Cargo Letter [449] Dec. 2008
***Failed Security Or Defective Measure? ... as an attack by Somali pirates garnered a lot of attention Nov. 26, when private security contractors aboard chemical tanker MT Biscaglia were unable to thwart the attack by non-lethal means & jumped overboard in a hail of bullets to escape. The incident has raised questions about the credentials & security practices of Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions (APMSS). The company was formed last July by a former British army pilot in response to the piracy menace. It has placed teams of ex-Royal Marines & Special Forces on a handful of commercial vessels so far. Among the tools used by APMSS on MT Biscaglia was a long-range acoustical device (LRAD) that the company claimed can directly target an ear-piercing beam of sound towards a potential adversary to keep them at bay. But the LRAD manufacturer is defending the capability of its product when properly used. The security team's primary mistake was it only had one LRAD 500x mounted on the stern, said the manufactuer. The LRAD is very effective against people coming from a single direction, but the Somali pirates tend to swarm with more than one boat, according to shipping analysts. The hired force should have placed two LRAD 1000x units -- which are almost twice as loud as the 500x model -- on the port & starboard sides or used a portable version on a "scram cart" that can be moved about the ship, said San Diego-based American Technology Corp."

Eyewitness Account of The Taking of M/T Biscaglia -- told in press reports in the words of the participants --

In a brazen Nov. 15, raid one gang from the pirate strongholds of Eyl, Harardheere and Hobyo seized the super tanker M/T Sirius Star, filled with £67m of crude oil, and are still demanding a £6million ransom from its owners.

Ten days later, Mike Kelly, 36, ex-Royal Marine Carl "Rocky" Mason, 44, and another ex-military pal who does not want to be named, were paid £10,000 a month to safeguard the M/T Biscaglia as she sailed through the same treacherous waters.

Rocky Mason said: "Maritime law banned any weapons being taken on board, but their employers, Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions (APMSS), Dorset, UK, promised the ship would be equipped with "deterrents. The ship had water cannon and a sonic device which we were told was so painful any pirates would scarper. We also made a bazooka from a scaffolding pole and flares."

M/T Biscaglia and 18 other cargo vessels at first sailed with the French frigate Nivose for convoy protection. Ever since the taking of Ukrania "tank ship" M/V Faina, the international fleets have begun to assemble protective convoys from cargo vessels as they came to/from the Suez Canal.

It was thouht that M/T Biscaglia would be safe on her voyage.

M/T Biscaglia Falls Behind The Convoy -- Pirate Pickings --

Two days out of Oman, 300 miles off the Somali coast, M/T Biscaglia fell behind.

Ex-Royal Marine & M/T Biscaglia security officer Mike Kelly, from Dublin, said: "We noticed a skiff about 3 miles off our port side &endash; and knew it was pirates."

M/T Biscaglia sent a distress signal to the French frigate Nivose as the skiff circled the tanker staying well out of range of water cannons.

The French military: "We responded as quickly as we could, but it was all over," said Christophe Prazuck, a spokesman for the French military, which also sent a chopper. "It does make you wonder about the utility of some of these security teams."Yet piracy has continued unabated, in part because it would take 300 warships to control every ship movement in the 772,200- square-mile area," Prazuck said.


Pirates Circle M/T Biscaglia -- Staying Well Out of Water Cannon Range -- Until The Attack

First lines of defense failed and the unarmed ex-British military security men decided to use the sonic weapon, called an L-RAD (Long Range Acoustic Device).

Mike Kelly said: "We thought it (L-RAD) would make the pirates back off, but they just laughed. It was a total waste of time."

Water Cannons Wind Down -- L-RAD Unsuccessful -- M/T Biscaglia In Peril

Mike Kelly said: "We used our makeshift bazooka but it was wildly inaccurate and the pirates started firing rocket-propelled grenades."

THe pirates made their move.

Two pirates stayed in the skiff, while others 6 scrambled on board, firing AK-47s at the bridge --

-- where the three ex-British military, security guards continued their unarmed defense.

Rocky Mason, said: "They started shooting at me and I ran -- with them coming after me. They were only about 18, skinny and looked high on the local drug, called khat. They were spraying bullets everywhere."

The trio locked all the hatches and retreated to the roof of the bridge. Half an hour after the attack had begun, a helicopter from the French warship Nivose appeared.

Rocky Mason, said: "Although it (the helicopter) was armed, it is against maritime laws in the area to board a vessel by force after it has been taken by pirates. So the helicopter crew were forced to hover and photograph events from above."

The Crew of M/T Biscaglia Is Captured

Mike Kelly said: "We decided the best thing to do was maybe hide somewhere and then take the pirates out. We heard shooting and glass breaking and realised they'd got onto the bridge. The pirates made the crew kneel outside the bridge with their hands on their head. A couple stood over them with guns."

As The Pirates Made All The Crew Kneel With Their Hands On Their Heads,

The Unarmed Security Trio Locked Hatches & Got Out of Sight On To The Roof of The Bridge.

Mike Kelly said: "In one of the pictures you can see I've crept forward to the edge of the roof. The pirates don't know where we are. Rocky Martiin is behind me. We found some iron bars and our plan was for Rocky Mason to jump off the roof, bringing a bar down on the head of one pirate. We thought there were only 3 of them and after taking out one we'd be able to handle the other two. But then one of the crew gestured at us that there were 6 (armed) pirates &endash; and we knew we had no chance of taking them on."

Not An Ideal Situation For Either Crew Or Unarmed Security

Preparing To Depart M/T Biscaglia - Tactical Withdrawl

Rocky Mason added: "We didn't want to leave the crew. They have families too. But we'd pissed the pirates off and the chances were we'd get a bullet each. At best we'd have a beating and, because of our British passports, be high-value hostages. So we decided the only option was to go over the side."

The tribal Somali pirates shot at the 3 Brit security officers as they made a dash for it. And they continued trying to kill them as they floated in the water.

German Navy Helicopter Over Mike Kelly, Rocky Martin & Colleague -- 40 Minutes IN The Water

Their 40 Minutes Afloat Under Fire Demonstrate That The Tactical Withdrawl Was Wise -- Not Running

The brave trio defied the gun-toting gang by every means possible &endash; including using home-made weapons. But the odds were just too great… and they were forced to jump 50ft into the shark-infested sea to avoid being killed or held as hostages. They endured 40 agonising minutes being shot at in the water before a rescue helicopter arrived.

These are the first Britons to escape from the pirates holding the world to ransom by ambushing ships off the coast of Somalia, East Africa.

Eventually, a second, German helicopter arrived with a winch and hauled them to safety. Now home, they say there needs to be a drastic change in the way the world deals with the bandits &endash; who net millions in ransom from firms in return for crews & cargo.

Taken Aboard HMS Cumberland To Safety

Their 40 Minutes Under Fire Demonstrate That The Tactical Withdrawl Was Wise -- Not Running

Ex-Royal Marine Carl "Rocky" Mason -- On of THe Good Guys

If Only These Three Aboard M/T Biscaglia Had Been Armed

Rocky Mason said: "They know we can't really fight back. It's easy money &endash; and something must be done."

Editor Note: It has already been debated at length on the Internet, but we think these unarmed guys are heroes who acted with prudence -- doing the best they could with what very little they were given to work with by Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions . But our major emotion now is prayer for the crew of M/T Biscaglia and their safe return.

In the Wake of M/T Biscaglia & M/T Sirius Star, now some shippers are paying tens of thousands of dollars a day for protection.

Converted Gunboat & Armed Guards --

M/V McArthur - Ready For Private Duty With Helicoper, Launches & Armed Operatives

Blackwater Worldwide offers the M/V McArthur, a former research vessel that the Moyock, North Carolina, company converted into a gunboat. More than 70 shipping and insurance companies have inquired about it, said Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. It can carry up to 30 armed personnel and is currently berthed in Virginia Beach.

Secopex, based in Carcassone, France, offers 11 escort boats carrying former French naval commandos. The largest, with a dozen personnel, rent for US$30,000 a day. The company has had inquiries from Japanese, Dutch and Danish shippers, said Julien Duval, head of maritime security at Secopex.

M/T Biscaglia 's one Irish and two British guards worked for APMSS (Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions), a Dorset, England, company that uses high-volume sonic systems to repulse boarding attempts. APMSS said in a statement that its crews have prevented three hijackings recently.

US$3,385 a Day

According to its Web site, APMSS charges £ 2,335 (US$3,385) a day for three guards and sonic equipment, plus 4,500 pounds for each guard to travel to the zone. They spend 3 to 5 days on board, between Port Said at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal and either Aden, Yemen, or Salalah, Oman.

As the M/T Biscaglia attack was under way, its distress signal was picked up by the Nivose, a French frigate escorting 18 merchant ships 40 miles away. When a Panther helicopter from the Nivose arrived 15 minutes later, the pirates were already in control.

The day before that incident, a 19-man team from London- based Hart Security Ltd. thwarted an attack on a European vessel, said Hugh Martin, Hart's general manager.

This Tribal Scum Needs To Be Stopped -- The World Is Getting Smaller For Americans, Brits & The Rest of Us

Shippers Must Have Quality Marine Cargo Insurance ........ Because......... "Ship Happens! ©"

To Repeat -- No Matter How Careful You Are -- Or Who You Hire ....... "Ship Happens! ©"

Get Your "Ship Happens! ©" Gear!

Visit The Cargo Law Ship's Store For Great Industry Gift Ideas!

The Dedication of This Feature Is Simple: To The Crew of M/T Biscaglia and her families. May They Be Safe.

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by air & sae continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker

It's very dangerous out there.


Important Links To Our Feature:
American Technology Corp.

Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions

Wikipedia On Subject

Long Range Acoustic Device - L-RAD

Khat - Somali pirate drug of choice

The Private Navies

Blackwater Worldwide

Hart Security Ltd


Important Links To Our Recent Somali Pirate Features:

The Attack On M/V Faina

The Pirate Attack on MV Zhen Hua 4

Our Other Zen Hua Features

The Light At The End of The Tunnel

Feature #1 M/V Zhen Hua 10

Feature #2 M/V Zhen Hua 23

M/V Zen Hua 4 -- present location

Our Other Cargo Law Pirate Features

Modern Day Piracy -- Presentation By Michael S. McDaniel, Esq. of Modern High Seas Piracy

"Return of The Pirates" -- a 2 hour History Channel TV documentary featuring Michael S. McDaniel

Modern High Seas Piracy -- Ships Taken -- Naval Combat
Over 90% of international trade travels by water and a new generation of criminals is blending terror tactics with time-tested methods to threaten this economic lifeline. Nations and corporations are racing to protect themselves and their goods, and though the pirates are still ahead, new international response units and mercenary ships are combating the attacks. The U.S. Coast Guard trains navies worldwide in anti-piracy measures, but corrupt law enforcement officials mar advances in their effectiveness. Today's pirate is organized, political, and will command world attention once again.

"Tank You, From The Somali Pirates" - Somalia - M/V Faina - Sept.- Jan. 2008

"The Attack On M/V Zen Hua 4" - Dec. 2008

"Paradise & Pirates" - S/V Le Ponant - April 2008

Attack On USS Cole (DDG-67)

Our Grand Sail With Task Force 150 - "Mis-Fortune" - M/V Hyundai Fortune - March 2006


"The Pirates of Peleliu" - the Gulf of Aden - Aug. 2008

"Somali Pirate Patrol" -- pirate miscalculation --March 2006

"Pirate Payback" - USS Winstn Churchill - Jan. 2006

"Suggested Al-Qaida Solution" - Sept. 2001

Our Daily Vessel Casualties - stay informed on pirate activity & casualties

Ocean Features From The Cargo Letter- these are just examples

The Cargo Letter Photo Gallery of Transport Loss - For All The Air & Ocean Features - a few examples below
"Too Little Runway - Too Much Plane" - TACA Flt 390 - June 2008

"Recurring Dream" - M/V Norwegian Dream - May 2008

"Explorer Ship Down" - M/V Explorer - Nov. 2007

"Kwanyang Crane Kaboom" - Nov. 2007

"Den Den Done" - M/V Denden - Sept. 2007

"For The "L" of It" - M/V Action Alpha - August 2007

"Pepito Flores Did Not Need To Die " - OUR INVESTIGATION RESULTS

"Stack Attack!" - M/V Ital Florida - July 2007

"Singles Only" - visit our individual moments of transport crisis for more.

The Greatest Container Losses Of All Time - these are the grand fathers -

M/V OOCL America

M/V APL China

M/V APL Panama - The EPIC

"Great Misfortune"- M/V Hyundai Fortune - March 2006

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by sea continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs broker. 

It's very dangerous out there.

Thanks To Our Contributors For The "The Taking of M/T Biscaglia" Feature

Our Contributor for this feature are greatly appreciated:
Simon Dutton

John Orsini

NOTE: Please Provide Us With Your Additional Information For This Loss.

EDITOR'S NOTE FOR SURVEYORS, ATTORNEYS & MARINE ADJUSTERS: The Internet edition effort of The Cargo Letter now celebrates it's 8th Year of Service -- making us quite senior in this segment of the industry. We once estimated container underway losses at about 1,500 per year. Lloyd's put that figure at about 10,000 earlier this year. Quite obviously, the reporting mechanism for these massive losses is not supported by the lines. News of these events is not posted to the maritime community. Our new project is to call upon you -- those handling the claims -- to let us know of each container loss at sea-- in confidentiality. Many of you survey on behalf of cargo interests with no need for confidentiality. Others work for the lines & need to be protected. As a respected Int'l publication, The Cargo Letter enjoys full press privileges & cannot be forced to disclose our sources of information. No successful attempt has ever been made. If a personal notation for your report is desired -- each contributor will be given a "hot link" to your company Website in each & every report. Please take moment & report your "overside" containers to us. If you do not wish attribution, your entry will be "anonymous." This will will benefit our industry -- for obvious reasons! McD

* NOTE: The Cargo Letter wants you to know that by keeping the identity of our contributors 100% Confidential, you are able to view our continuing series of "Cargo Disasters." Our friends send us materials which benefit the industry. The materials are provided to our news publication with complete and enforceable confidentiality for the sender. In turn, we provide these materials to you.  

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