The pirates still operating off the coast of Somalia have a relatively sophisticated PR machine, which includes spokespeople and a form letter to victims, politely explaining what they need to do to get their ship back.
The letter could use some editing, however. Ship owners hijacked by one group of pirates calling itself "Jamal's Pirate Action Group" receive a form letter on letterhead adorned with a skull and crossed swords, which starts out with this greeting: "Congratulations to the Company/Owner," according to Reuters' Ben Berkowitz, who has the exclusive report on the pirates' personalized stationery and form letter. The rest of the missive strikes an equally jarring tone, partly for their overly polite appeal and partly for the poor translation into English. Reuters shared this copy of the letter with The Atlantic Wire:
As the military-chronicling site Strategy Page reports, times are tough for Somali pirates. The last ship they took was a fishing boat on June 19, and the last attack on June 25 was thwarted. According to Berkowitz's report, "the maritime bureau reported 69 hijacking incidents by Somali pirates between Jan. 1 and July 12, down 32 percent from last year." So pirates need to make the most of the ships they capture, and the letterhead helps them do that by professionalizing the process.
An attorney who has handled pirate negotiations told Berkowitz: "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." But seeing as how the letter reads like one of those poorly translated spam emails exhorting you to hand over your bank account details in order to get a big cash payout, it's hard to imagine it helps ship owners take the pirates seriously. That's why they also have guns.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.