On Point: Gulf Of Mexico Pirates Threaten Global Security And Environmental Extortion

by Austin Bay
July 9, 2022

A question that matters to America's physical and economic security: Name the criminal, economic and terrorist threat that has the following seven effects on the United States, Western Hemisphere and world.

Read the list, then I'll identify and discuss the threat.

The Seven Effects: (1) The threat spikes gas prices at the pump because it directly puts major oil and gas resources in the Western Hemisphere at extreme risk. (2) Because of the threat's geographic proximity to the U.S., it is a border security issue of economic and military significance. (3) It presents an immense ecological threat -- 2010's Deepwater Horizon oil spill writ large. (4) It is a sophisticated 21st-century physical threat to seaborne global trade. (5) Since energy transport and maritime insurance are factors, the threat is a systemic inflationary risk. (6) Shrimpers and yacht owners beware. The threat puts commercial and private offshore fishing and maritime tourism at risk. (7) When this threat emerges, look for systemic ills associated with failing states and failed states: political corruption and security force incompetence.

The answer: Piracy in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically the southern Gulf of Mexico also known as the Bay of Campeche.

These 21st century pirates -- cartelista marine thieves is the sound bite identifier -- target Mexican oil production and drilling platforms and offshore support boats.

At least for the moment.

On June 14 pirates armed with automatic weapons attacked a Pemex (Petroleos Mexicano/Mexican Petroleum) oil platform in the Bay of Campeche. State-owned Pemex is by far the most important company in Mexico. The Mexican Navy, however, responded slowly. The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) estimates that in 2019, 180 attacks occurred on Mexican oil targets.

I did a quick internet survey of attacks over the past six weeks. There have been at least five. Pirates hit the Ichalkil Alfa platform in the Ichalkil and Pokoch fields. In another attack in the Cantarell production area they stole valuables worth several million pesos.

Wherever they are conducted, successful attacks reap spectacular ransoms. In 2007, Somali pirates reportedly received $30 million in ransoms to free vessels and crewmen.

That's extortion. What stops Gulf of Mexico pirates from running a protection racket against Pemex or U.S. oil companies with platforms off Louisiana and Texas?

With a strained Coast Guard, very little stops the racketeers. Dialogue from a 1930s gangster movie: Gee, Exxon, you wouldn't want to see this rig blow up, would you?

Deepwater Horizon cost an estimated $75 billion.

You'd think the eco-crazy Bidenites would care about effect No. 3 -- an ecological disaster -- and would want to prevent it.

Here's useful deep background for informed citizens. Published in 2000 by the Naval Institute Press, Jack Gottschalk and Brian Flanagan's "Jolly Roger With an Uzi: The Rise and Threat of Modern Piracy" documented the rise of "new piracy." The authors examined smuggling and maritime scams, as well as terrorists operating at sea.

Gottschalk and Flanagan identified three requirements for piracy, which apply to Viking raiders, Somali sea thieves and Mexican cartel hitmen in high-speed boats attacking state-owned Pemex oil platforms: (1) Pirates prowl waterways where the targets are lucrative. ( 2) "The geographic area where pirates prey must be one in which the risk level of detection is acceptable." (3) If possible, pirates have "safe havens" where they can "hide, seek repairs and obtain supplies."

The Indian Ocean's Gulf of Aden and West Africa's Gulf of Guinea are known pirate hotspots, but the Gulf of Mexico hasn't received a great deal of mainstream attention. Why? One reason: attention doesn't serve President Joe Biden's administration's narrative purposes. Biden might have to do something about it.

What can informed U.S. citizens do? Beef up the Coast Guard. Also, change the rules on self-defense offshore. Right now, U.S. companies and citizens are limited on what they can do for their own local defense. Pirates wield automatic rifles and grenade launchers against -- at best -- shotguns and semi-automatic rifles.

In WWII Washington deputized private craft to patrol against U-boats, with Ernest Hemingway aboard his fishing boat being the most famous example.

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To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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