The latest example of piracy off Somalia comes with a twist. Apparently the American crew of the US-flagged container ship fought back after being boarded and managed to re-take the ship. The captain remains a hostage with the pirates, who fled in a small boat but are demanding a ransom for the captain. A US warship is en route. This article from the Beeb lays out some interesting facts concerning the regulations and rules of engagement that are hampering the fight against piracy in Somali waters. For example, international regulations (probably dating from the era of Q-ships and commerce raiders) forbid the creation of armed merchant vessels. Warships sent by the U.N. do not have the freedom to simply blow the **** out of pirate vessels they encounter...they are a deterrent, but the pirates strike quickly and have the luxury of not operating under any rules of engagement. While I certainly don't want to romanticize the violence of the age of sail, it seems we are really tying our hands behind our back here. The UN needs to take strong action here. The Somali government has no control over the pirate bases and this situation seems unlikely to change. Total ransoms paid to pirates is approaching 100 million US dollars - just think how much mischief they can get into with that kind of money! It is going to show up in all the wrong places.