March 06, 2011

Slip & slide on the high seas

  You’ve been reading about Somali pirates raiding world shipping in the West Indian Ocean. Pirates hold ships and people for huge ransoms. Often the pirates collect, and sometimes victims are slaughtered. This story is about a pirate band that got outfoxed.
  The Somali pirates shadow their prey from a mother ship, which is usually a highjacked vessel. Once the pirates select their prey, they launch small skiffs that trail the intended victim. The pirates are armed with guns, including RPGs—rocket propelled grenade launchers.
  This particular target is the APL Hong Kong, loaded with huge container cranes that are designed to move the shipping containers that are used on cargo ships and docks worldwide. We see these shipping containers running up and down the highways, pulled by trucks. They hold merchandise that will end up on store shelves all over America, a necessary part of our commerce.
  In this story, the APL Hong Kong is steaming along, carrying her load to a western port. The pirates fire warning shots across her bow, then skiffs pull alongside. The pirates toss grappling hooks atop the deck and begin scaling the bulkheads like monkeys.
  The captain of the crane ship orders all hands into locked compartments. As the pirates climb aboard, the ship’s captain flips a switch that sets his plan in motion. Nozzles on the open deck begin spraying a gooey substance, covering the deck. The substance is so slippery it’s impossible to stand up on the rolling deck. Not only do the pirates fall down, they slide overboard. Some of the pirates are picked up by their skiffs. Others, less fortunate, are claimed by the sea.
  What is this gooey stuff?  It’s unrefined castor oil, the kind of thing your grandfather was forced to swallow as a kid whenever he got sick.  Castor oil may not end the Somali pirate threat, but it does take care of this raid. Three cheers for the captain of APL Hong Kong.

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