Monday, 21 January 2013

There Is Snow Reason To Panic!

It has become a national joke that Britain cannot cope with even a tiny amount of snow. As soon as the white stuff starts coming down our quiet society is taken over with traffic chaos, panic buying and Armageddon metaphors.

I recently had to explain this situation to some international friends studying with me at Sussex University. They were very excited to have a snowy winter but, having explained the unedifying facts to them, they were stunned that we were so incapable of dealing with this entirely uncomplicated weather phenomenon.

It would seem that climate change and shifting weather patterns cause snow to be an annual occurrence yet as a country we have absolutely no resilience to an event that barely causes raised eyebrows in others. We need a political and social change in attitude to help combat the stress, chaos and huge monetary lost caused every year when a couple of centimeters of part-frozen perspiration shuts down the whole country. We need a large increase in funding to allow local councils to respond with greater efficiency and alacrity in dealing with snow. As in many aspects of life I have been impressed by Brighton and Hove City Council in dealing with the recent snowfall but even so a couple of inches caused a full day-or-so of disruption.

We must look to Northern Europe and Canada to see systems capable of dealing with feet of snow rather than inches. We must look at the money we lose due to disruption and invest in better innovations and resources. Most importantly of all...WE MUST NOT PANIC!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Privateers Versus Pirates - The Typhon Navy In The Indian Ocean

It has been announced that the British company Typhon will launch the first private naval force in two centuries. It will include a 10,000 tonne flagship supported primarily by fast assault craft. Funded by Simon Murrey, head of Glencore, and other investors it will be captained by an ex-Royal Navy Commodore who has been busy recruiting other sailors and Marines to the force in an attempt to create a formidable convoy protection and Quick Reaction Force (QRF).

It has been designed primarily to fill perceived strategic failings the multinational force attempting to deal with the problem of Somali piracy off the Horn of Africa. Typhon CEO argues 'They can’t do the job because they haven’t got the budget and deploying a billion-pound warship against six guys [pirates] with $500 of kit is not a very good use of the asset.' While this makes some strategic sense the NATO, EU and other missions around Somalia have had quite a lot of success in curbing the freedom of the pirates and have even started attacking their land bases, the only strategic that can conceivably work in the long term. The main threat of international piracy can in fact be said to have moved to the West African coast. So why has Typhon come out now to be the privately-owned white knight of the international community?

Clearly profit is the driving factor here. Typhon have struck at the precise point at which the threat of piracy has lowered yet the fear of the pirates remains high. As a for-profit company this situation is perfect as it limits collateral costs (damage and deaths from pirate attacks) while allowing the naval force to get investment by international companies funding their convoys out of fear of kidnap and loss of property.
The inclusion of heavily armored fast-patrol boats full of Marines toting M-4s  and sniper rifles with ranges of 2 km is designed specifically as a scare tactic against pirate forces rather than a need for the offensive and defensive tactical advantages.

While this is an exciting development in the narrative of anti-piracy activities it is not strategically important or altruistic in nature. It is a modern innovation in the art of the privateer, making money in maritime warfare as mercenaries. Typhon is not interesting in protecting Somalia or its people; indeed its profit is derived from the continuation of the pirate threat and the poverty and anarchism of Somalia.