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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who's Got The Fairest Ships Of All
by James Dunnigan
September 1, 2009

Nearly a hundred warships, from over two dozen countries, have served on the Somali anti-piracy patrol so far, and, although the sailors rarely get to meet, they do have a chance to communicate with each other as they patrol, or chase off pirates. Sailors compare notes, and some are shocked at some of the differences between navies. And there are some big differences.

Not all navies have women on warship crews, but the U.S., Britain and many other Western nations do. Ships from temperate zone nations find that their ships are not as well prepared for the tropics (even if equipped with air conditioning). It gets very, very hot off the coast of Somalia.

American sailors are once again reminded that most other navies carry beer, wine and harder stuff for the crew. U.S. ships are "dry" in that respect. Then again, American ships are noted for good food and comfortable (compared to most other navies) living quarters. This is because, the U.S. Navy keeps its ships at sea more than anyone else. Since all American sailors are volunteers (who will not stay in unless there is a certain degree of comfort on board), U.S. ships are built for this. Most other navies save money by building warships that will not spend a lot of time at sea, meaning crew quarters, and amenities, can be more modest. This backfires when you do send your ships off on an "American style" mission.

One American amenity most sailors are very envious of is the Internet access on U.S. warships. The U.S. took the lead in this department, and it's been a big morale boost. Another American fringe benefit is that U.S. sailors can shoot to kill when confronting pirates. Most warships off the Somali coast are under orders to not fire unless fired on, and to practice catch (pirates in the act) and release (after disarming them.)

British ships are similar to the American ones, with the addition of booze. The U.S. modeled many of its ship design policies after those pioneered by the British. While Britain has a much smaller navy these days, the ships are still built for long voyages.


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