Latest possible use of privateering in naval operations

With a POD after the 1856 Paris Declaration, how late can we push privateering? Most countries signed on but not all. Bolivia wanted to recruit privateers for the War of the Pacific, but it lost all of it’s harbors and it’s ally Peru was a signatory to the declaration. Was it still plausible in still later wars? Sino-French, Russo-Japanese, 2nd Sino-Japanese, Chaco wars? Not really sure which forum to put this as it straddles both pre and post-1900.

Anyway here’s a bizarre proposal for US to issue letters of marque against Chinese container ships. Presumably commissioned by lobbyists for private military contractors:

 
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Soviet and WP flagged ships trying to get to Haiphong

'Hey, they are private US citizens operating in International Waters, with duly signed Letters of Marque and Reprisal to stop any military goods from reaching North Vietnam. Any cargos found in violation will be sent to a US Port of call for final disposition and crews and vessel then allowed to continue their journey'
 
The latest point at which privateering wouldn't be suicidal would be World War I. After that, escorts, convoys, and aircraft would make the proposition for the attackers too difficult to be reliably profitable.
 
The Proceedings article is indeed bizarre, but I don't think it's as insane as it first appears. To my mind the easiest way to get some kind of letter of marque would be to make some kind of deal with merchant ships during the world wars wherein they were compensated for sinking submarines. IOTL the Royal Navy outfitted "Q-ships" to trick U-Boats to within gunnery range, and it's easy to see a government more concerned about its bottom line offering merchant mariners a kind of reward if they outfitted themselves and sank submarines. Of course, this is the exact kind of duplicity that led Germany to ditch cruiser rules for submarine commerce raiders in the first place, so although you get later privateers for the sake of your question I doubt they last that long -- the convoy system and actively militarized escorts are simply too effective compared to the occasional unaccompanied "merchant" scoring a kill.

The reason I don't think the Proceedings article is too too crazy is because the nature of naval warfare changed with the advent of anti-ship missiles. During the age of large-caliber guns it would have been prohibitively expensive to purchase guns, a magazine system, and train a gun crew. Once you can buy a pack of anti-ship missiles and either threaten an enemy ship with them or -- more likely IMO but requires some tweaking to the definition of privateering -- just shooting down enemy merchant ships and getting a reward for them, that dynamic changes. This is particularly easy to accomplish once you get modern over-the-horizon targeting methods requiring little more than a commercial satellite uplink to shoot at vessels that you can't even see.

As to a conflict where this is likely to occur... I think that's a harder problem than the mechanics of it, actually. During the world wars it's probably not worth the cost, since neutrals were fair game to German submarines anyway. Afterwards, you have to imagine that any kind of war is going to occur around some kind of neutral shipping and that both sides are probably going to keep trading with non-aligned regional powers. In that case I would say it's probably not worth exposing your or your allied merchant mariners to scrutiny/capture/death in order to hit one or two of the other side's merchants with an anti-ship missile. Very quickly you end up in a place where the ROE are altered such that, if Soviet merchant ships are known to have fired upon US-bound shipping, US submarines get green light to engage any Soviet freighters they see, thus negating the surprise advantage offered by privateers.
 
The latest point at which privateering wouldn't be suicidal would be World War I. After that, escorts, convoys, and aircraft would make the proposition for the attackers too difficult to be reliably profitable.
For big powers yes but let’s say there is a war between 2 third world countries ( even as late as 1990s) they can use privateers to target each other merchant marine on the high seas ? Most 3rd world nations have few ocean going ships MPA or satellites
 
The latest point at which privateering wouldn't be suicidal would be World War I. After that, escorts, convoys, and aircraft would make the proposition for the attackers too difficult to be reliably profitable.

Convoy raiding using modified passenger ships resembled privateering, though it was done by German navy personnel. It was actively romanticized in German propaganda.
 
Soviet and WP flagged ships trying to get to Haiphong

'Hey, they are private US citizens operating in International Waters, with duly signed Letters of Marque and Reprisal to stop any military goods from reaching North Vietnam. Any cargos found in violation will be sent to a US Port of call for final disposition and crews and vessel then allowed to continue their journey'
Any action of the privateers with an official US Letter of Marque and Reprisal would be seen internationally as an action of the US government as the Hague Convention of 1907 clearly regulates covertion of a merchant ship into a warship - the Power that does it takes full resposibility for actions of said ship. Not to mention a letter of marque can be issued only in time of war.
In short, USA just officially declared war and imposed a sea blockade against North Vietnam. And if so, why use privateers if the US Navy is perfectly capable of doing that?
And WI a US approved privateer tried to intercept a Soviet merchanst ship en route to North Vietnam and was in turn attacked and sunk or captured by a Soviet warship? Can the Soviets hang the prisoners as pirates?
 
Wonderful! Private enterprise starting out selling shares in Pirate Inc. After having the listing over-subscribed in 1938, it quickly gets into building:
- 2 carriers
- 5 battleships
- 10 cruisers
- 20 destroyers

All for the use in the Med! And all of it contracted to British shipyards (or should we let it go to Japan?)

1940 sees this massive private fleet taking on RN, Italy, Turkey, Greece and establishing Crete, Malta and Gibraltar as bases!

All supplies for Malta gets captured and sold to Rommel who quickly defeats everybody on his way to Cairo and Iraq.

The shareholders cashes in on massive profits, deposited in Swiss banks

Hoorah for private enterprise!

--- and sorry for highjaking this thread. But it did appeal to my sense of humour!
 
In short, USA just officially declared war and imposed a sea blockade against North Vietnam.
compare to 'Quarantine' of Cuba, and the US did not agree to that part of the Hague Convention
You don't need a DoW for getting the Letter either, see the Quasi-War with France

North Vietnam didn't sign most of those agreement either, like the Geneva
 
compare to 'Quarantine' of Cuba, and the US did not agree to that part of the Hague Convention
You don't need a DoW for getting the Letter either, see the Quasi-War with France

North Vietnam didn't sign most of those agreement either, like the Geneva
"Quarantine" of Cuba was officially declared by the US Government and enforced by the US Navy. If the US Government officially declares "quarantine" of North Vietnam, why should they use privateers instead of US Navy?
And if there is no official declaration of quarantine/blockade/state of war any ship attacking another on international waters in time of peace would be considered an act of piracy and nothing would stop Soviet, North Vietnamese or Chinese warships to engage privateers and then execute any prisoners as pirates.
I didn't know USA had not agreed to the part of the Hague Convention, but it doesn't change anything: all other countries that had signed (like France, UK) would consider US privateers action quite illegal (we're talking international waters here, not US territorial waters).
 
Convoy raiding using modified passenger ships resembled privateering, though it was done by German navy personnel. It was actively romanticized in German propaganda.
German merchant raiders of both wars were compared to pirates, hyperbolically, in swashbuckling propaganda and popular histories. But the German merchant raiders were, as you say, naval personnel operating under orders. The Royal Navy outfitted liners as armed merchant cruisers in both wars that captured enemy merchants while enforcing the blockade. Those were not popularly seen as romantic pirates, although they were filling a similar role.
 
"Quarantine" of Cuba was officially declared by the US Government and enforced by the US Navy. If the US Government officially declares "quarantine" of North Vietnam, why should they use privateers instead of US Navy?
And if there is no official declaration of quarantine/blockade/state of war any ship attacking another on international waters in time of peace would be considered an act of piracy and nothing would stop Soviet, North Vietnamese or Chinese warships to engage privateers and then execute any prisoners as pirates.
I didn't know USA had not agreed to the part of the Hague Convention, but it doesn't change anything: all other countries that had signed (like France, UK) would consider US privateers action quite illegal (we're talking international waters here, not US territorial waters).
The North didn't give POW status to shot down US aircrew, calling them 'Air Pirates' and tortured near all of them for years.
So Privateering on 2nd World shipping heading towards the North is a way to modify that attitude.
Why not have the Navy do it?
Because the OP wanted Privateers at latest time in history, and thus is it.
 
I wanted a whale war between japan and ussr and maybe we can have privateers there hijacking whaling vessels
I wonder if the Sea Shepherds or another anti-whaling organization could bribe the government of Bolivia (or any other small nation that refused to sign the Paris Declaration) into issuing them a letter of marque? They wouldn't necessarily have to seize any ships- just the threat that they have some legal justification for the use of force would presumably send whaling ships' insurance premiums skyrocketing.

Of course, it's difficult to imagine that being bribed into declaring war on Japan would make much sense for Bolivia or anyone else... I assume South Korea is a signatory to at least one of the relevant treaties banning privateering, otherwise this would have probably happened already.
 
German merchant raiders of both wars were compared to pirates, hyperbolically, in swashbuckling propaganda and popular histories. But the German merchant raiders were, as you say, naval personnel operating under orders. The Royal Navy outfitted liners as armed merchant cruisers in both wars that captured enemy merchants while enforcing the blockade. Those were not popularly seen as romantic pirates, although they were filling a similar role.
Like this
Pirates small.jpg
 
I wonder if the Sea Shepherds or another anti-whaling organization could bribe the government of Bolivia (or any other small nation that refused to sign the Paris Declaration) into issuing them a letter of marque? They wouldn't necessarily have to seize any ships- just the threat that they have some legal justification for the use of force would presumably send whaling ships' insurance premiums skyrocketing.

Of course, it's difficult to imagine that being bribed into declaring war on Japan would make much sense for Bolivia or anyone else... I assume South Korea is a signatory to at least one of the relevant treaties banning privateering, otherwise this would have probably happened already.
I don't see a bribe, but I could see an act of political theatre. A rabble rousing socialist government of a small country, like Bolivia under Morales, but with a coastline could deputize the Sea Shepherd, if they didn't think through the implications too hard. One claim the Sea Shepherd Society has made is that they enforce maritime law in the waters countries that are too weak to defend their own waters. There is some truth to that claim.
 
The origin story of Somali pirates is that they initially were fishermen who decided to grab some guns and enforce Somali sovereignty after the central government collapsed and foreign fish boats were stealing the livelihood of the locals.
 
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