Honour Among Thieves, Somali Pirate Edition

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/14/2012 03:05:00 PM
Coming from one of the countries worse affected by maritime piracy, I tend not to romanticize incidences of ship hijacking in the Gulf of Aden. That said, it strikes me as remarkable how much more "professional" and "businesslike" Somali pirates have become. Just as banks of yesteryear used to have lavish premises replete with gilt and marble to symbolize the idea that they meant business and were here to stay, so too do modern-day pirates (no contemporary references to the state of the financial services industry intended) understand the value of symbolism. 

Accordingly, Reuters has a fascinating article describing how Somali pirates now have a grasp of business essentials such as marketing (i.e., presentation of ransom demands as a worthwhile "purchase"), accounting (ransom valuation of captured crew and vessels), and so forth:
[Pirate captain] Jamal provided the ship owners a breakdown of the value of their tanker, the oil it contained and also the worth of the crew (at least in his opinion), presenting a final demand figure for them to consider. "We will send to you after when we arrange something for the demanding ransom money and after when we finish the meeting among my group and resolve my problem," he wrote in the second page of the kidnap packet.

One expert in ransom negotiation situations said it was little surprise that Jamal and his colleagues were so well organized, their meager circumstances in one of the world's most strife-torn countries notwithstanding. "They want to get the money. If they present themselves and behave as someone who will live up to their commitment to give us the package in good condition, we are much more likely to go ahead and pay the ransom easily and efficiently," said Derek S.T. Baldwin, director of worldwide operations for IBIS International, which operates in 45 countries worldwide.

"If they present themselves as a non-structured group of disorganized loons they stand an awful lot better chance of having an extraction team show up on their front porch and shoot them," said Baldwin, an attorney by training whose firm has been involved in a number of ransom situations over the years.
All they need now are some PowerPoints and they'd be pretty much state-of-the-art. Are they not in some twisted sense SMEs or entrepreneurs? The dividing line is not quite what we think it is in parts of the world where the rule of law is non-existent. They are, after all, in it for the money and do come up with innovations.