Latest possible use of privateering in naval operations

IMO, the problem of privatering in modern times comes from the lack of suitable targets.

First, as some already said, privateering would probably only occur during a war between 2 small countries.
For example, the USA would not issue letters of marque, why bother when they have the biggest navy in the world.

The second problem is targets.

Most of large commercial ships that could interrest privateers are owned by big internationnal shipping companies.
If there is any risk of their ships to be attacked by privateers, they will quickly transfer flag to sail under the protection of a major navy.
Like during the 19th century, there are 2 examples of flag transfer to place commercial ships under the protection of a major navy :
- During the American civil war, quite a few ships belonging to the US transfered flags to British Empire or French to become "invalid targets" for Confederacy privateers
- During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, a lot of ships flew the British flag to avoid capture by the French blocade, as the French wouldn't dare capturing british flagged ships.

So there will be a serious lack of valid targets for the privateers.

The only case I can imagine where privateering could be used would be a war between 2 "small" countries that do not have a real navy and where at least one is very dependent on coastal shipping using "small" ships (*) that can't easily change their flag.

( * small being relative)
 

CalBear

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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:

Seems to be a REALLY good way to get a fairly worrisome war against a Peer unfriendly power going.

God help Taiwan. For that matter, considering USN deployments in the last couple decades, it might get REALLY lonely out in the South China Sea. for a single CBG.

(need to be really cautious to keep this from current politics.)
 
Privateering could potentially be used against Somali and South China Sea pirates. There would be a lot of consequences, but it's foreseeable.
 
What about stated the US went to "war" with after the Cold War? Taliban Afghanistan, Milosevich' Serbia, Saddam's Iraq or Gaddafi's Libya?
 
Best case the country targeted treats it as an act of piracy. Worst case, they treat it as an act of war. Yes, there's nothing in the US constitution preventing Congress from issuing letters of marque, but everyone with an ounce of sense knows that the only reasonable options are to either not do whatever it you want the privateers to do in the first place or to have the navy do it.
 
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:

It's insanely idiotic since that begs the question why don't you just use a converted freighter with USN personnel (no way on G*d's green earth will the USG allow private citizens/organizations to carry things like anti-ship missiles).
 

NHBL

Kicked
I stumbled onto this thread, and had a modern thought. A significant civil war just might be a good place to use privateers. The 1980 Saudi Civil War in The Masquerade stared soon after Carter's reelection, and just might be a place to use them. After all, there are multiple factions, plus the Iran-Iraq war ongoing. Attacking ships is one option, but privateers can also raid targets ashore and scurry off with them. (Saudi Arabia has, among other things, an excess of ransomable royals and fancy palaces that can be raided, or even grab a boatload of munitions and sell it to whatever faction the privateer supports.)

Since the munitions shipments are illegal, no one can file claim for their theft. When you steal from a crook, he won't call the cops.
 
(no way on G*d's green earth will the USG allow private citizens/organizations to carry things like anti-ship missiles).
Also don't most/all of privateering profits depend on capturing enemy ships and cargo?
You need weapons or rules of naval combat that usually result in capturing a working ship at the end.

they will quickly transfer flag to sail under the protection of a major navy.
Why is that legal?
It certainly seems like cheating.
 
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.
Well to my understanding it was less " enforce Somali sovereignty" and more " kick the foreign ships that are illegally out competing us out of the game".

Less patriotism and more Moolah.

And even that phase didn't last long once it became apparent that the real money was in storming foreign cargo ships and holding their ships and crews hostages until a ransom was paid. It was discovered pretty fast that maybe scaring off some foreign trawler and maybe catching a few more fish was lzss profitable then just seizing some big merchant ship owned by a major shipping line and holding ship and crew prisoner until a cash ransom was paid. And at the time it was made very easy by

A) The ship owners would rarely actually report the incident because it made them look bad, might make it harder for them to recruit sailors, publicly reporting it would raise the risk that Lloyd's of London might up their insurance rates. And for a major shipping a ransom payment of a few million cash was much cheaper then even a small insurance adjustment.
2) At the time their was no Somali navy ane little naval/ coastguard activity in region
3) Arminf merchant ships was even with a few shotguns was really illegal.

And the former fishermen quickly either gor squeezed out or reduced to a minority as various criminal/ paramilitary groups dominated the market along with what can be described as a combo stock market ( with people contributing things like money, supplies, weapons, boats and manpower in a sort of cooperative) and loose groups of volunteers. Basically capitalism.

Strangely enough evenvthe brief period you mention wasn't a o e loale of a people defending a ancient way of life. Instead a couple decades before the local marxist dictator more or less forced a bunxh of people to become fishermen in a bid to boost the Somian economy.

The story you repeated I've seen mentioned endlessly often by anti imperialist sorts who cite Somilian piracy as some strike back by Somali pirates against western Imperialism and capitalism. In reality the fishermen period didv last long and was immediately replaced by a combination of capitalism, a proto stock market and well armed and organized ceiminal groups.
 
Well to my understanding it was less " enforce Somali sovereignty" and more " kick the foreign ships that are illegally out competing us out of the game".

Less patriotism and more Moolah.

And even that phase didn't last long once it became apparent that the real money was in storming foreign cargo ships and holding their ships and crews hostages until a ransom was paid. It was discovered pretty fast that maybe scaring off some foreign trawler and maybe catching a few more fish was lzss profitable then just seizing some big merchant ship owned by a major shipping line and holding ship and crew prisoner until a cash ransom was paid. And at the time it was made very easy by

A) The ship owners would rarely actually report the incident because it made them look bad, might make it harder for them to recruit sailors, publicly reporting it would raise the risk that Lloyd's of London might up their insurance rates. And for a major shipping a ransom payment of a few million cash was much cheaper then even a small insurance adjustment.
2) At the time their was no Somali navy ane little naval/ coastguard activity in region
3) Arminf merchant ships was even with a few shotguns was really illegal.

And the former fishermen quickly either gor squeezed out or reduced to a minority as various criminal/ paramilitary groups dominated the market along with what can be described as a combo stock market ( with people contributing things like money, supplies, weapons, boats and manpower in a sort of cooperative) and loose groups of volunteers. Basically capitalism.

Strangely enough evenvthe brief period you mention wasn't a o e loale of a people defending a ancient way of life. Instead a couple decades before the local marxist dictator more or less forced a bunxh of people to become fishermen in a bid to boost the Somian economy.

The story you repeated I've seen mentioned endlessly often by anti imperialist sorts who cite Somilian piracy as some strike back by Somali pirates against western Imperialism and capitalism. In reality the fishermen period didv last long and was immediately replaced by a combination of capitalism, a proto stock market and well armed and organized ceiminal groups.
Yeah, everything you said too. I might have put “enforce sovereignty” in quotes. I think the attitude of the fishermen at the time was F-you.
 
Well to my understanding it was less " enforce Somali sovereignty" and more " kick the foreign ships that are illegally out competing us out of the game".

Less patriotism and more Moolah.

And even that phase didn't last long once it became apparent that the real money was in storming foreign cargo ships and holding their ships and crews hostages until a ransom was paid. It was discovered pretty fast that maybe scaring off some foreign trawler and maybe catching a few more fish was lzss profitable then just seizing some big merchant ship owned by a major shipping line and holding ship and crew prisoner until a cash ransom was paid. And at the time it was made very easy by

A) The ship owners would rarely actually report the incident because it made them look bad, might make it harder for them to recruit sailors, publicly reporting it would raise the risk that Lloyd's of London might up their insurance rates. And for a major shipping a ransom payment of a few million cash was much cheaper then even a small insurance adjustment.
2) At the time their was no Somali navy ane little naval/ coastguard activity in region
3) Arminf merchant ships was even with a few shotguns was really illegal.

And the former fishermen quickly either gor squeezed out or reduced to a minority as various criminal/ paramilitary groups dominated the market along with what can be described as a combo stock market ( with people contributing things like money, supplies, weapons, boats and manpower in a sort of cooperative) and loose groups of volunteers. Basically capitalism.

Strangely enough evenvthe brief period you mention wasn't a o e loale of a people defending a ancient way of life. Instead a couple decades before the local marxist dictator more or less forced a bunxh of people to become fishermen in a bid to boost the Somian economy.

The story you repeated I've seen mentioned endlessly often by anti imperialist sorts who cite Somilian piracy as some strike back by Somali pirates against western Imperialism and capitalism. In reality the fishermen period didv last long and was immediately replaced by a combination of capitalism, a proto stock market and well armed and organized ceiminal groups.
Re: the ransoms, I understand that became a pretty straightforward business transaction once the template was established, and the insurance companies did pay. The hard time for the crews came when the ship owners did not have good insurance, and the sailors (often from developing countries themselves) got abandoned along with the ships. I think the golden age of Somali piracy has passed.

Here is a really good podcast on the topic, if you listen to podcasts
 
Yeah, everything you said too. I might have put “enforce sovereignty” in quotes. I think the attitude of the fishermen at the time was F-you.

Followed pretty much immediately by "Wow we can make way way more money robbing or ransoming foreign ships then we ever could actually fishing" followed by harder cases replaces those bunch.

Pretty normal way of events unfolding. You might get a group that starts off as a legitimate self defense group in a area plagued by heavy handed guerillas or drug cartels. The brutality and heavy handedness and results in people in a area (sometimes grass roots other times founded by local wealthy and influential people who are tired of the paramilitaries/ narcos antics). They might start out legitimate fighting back against the Narcos or the terrorists. But then they start say capturing the Narcos drugs, their labs, and their cash. And while at first they might just toss the drugs and burn the labs rather quickly they realize they need money to buy weapons, pay bribes, pay their own fighters, and that sort of thing. So they sell the drugs and might restart the labs. And then the money is so good that they get corrupted fast and quickly the groups purpose becomes making, selling, and transporting drugs and the like. They might still fight their original enemies but now it's over territory and drugs and labs and smuggling routes.

Happened more times then I can count. And sometimes you've got those self defense groups that form to defend against cartels that started as self defense groups against other Narcos.
 
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.
How privateers being hanged by the communists as pirates will improve the fate of US airmen, if the pretty much regular naval and air bombardments failed to do that? And privateers will have against them not only North Vetnamese air defence or Navy, but quite probably also Soviet and/or Chinese fleet.
And IIRC the shot down US airmen were called air pirates exactly because there was no formal state of war between North Vietnam and USA
Besides, using privateers from propaganda POV would be terrible:
1. USA will be accused of piracy, since their privateers will attack ships on international waters without declaration of war.
2. US Navy will be declared cowards (also domestically), since the privateers will be doing the job the regular sailors seem to be unwilling to do.
3. Many other countries, including US allies will protest, since it will cause a dangerous precedent: imagine an Egyptian ship with letter of marque hunting merchant ships en route to Israel or Indian corsair attacking merchant ships going to Pakistan. Without a declaration of war. Any country might try such a trick against a pesky neighbour creating a serious threat to international sea commerce.
OP asked about the latest time in history for privateers, but I think it was meant as a : a latest time when it was a reasonable or highly propable to use them.
 
Re: the ransoms, I understand that became a pretty straightforward business transaction once the template was established, and the insurance companies did pay. The hard time for the crews came when the ship owners did not have good insurance, and the sailors (often from developing countries themselves) got abandoned along with the ships. I think the golden age of Somali piracy has passed.

Here is a really good podcast on the topic, if you listen to podcasts

Oh yeah the heyday passed years back. Still occurs but it's a minute fraction of what it used to be. Just too much policing my various navies, laws regarding arming merchant ships getting loosened (previously it had been pretty much impossible for a merchant ship to carry guns other then say as smuggled arms or as locked and bonded arms transports. The reason was that the ship had to exit one countries ports and enter another countries port. And a lot of countries are very iffy about poorly regulated foreign owned, flagged, and crewed ships carrying loose firearms into their ports. Eventually these laws/rules got relaxed some and a new business model got developed. Namely the "Floating Armory". Generally a converted merchantman or barge or something with a armory for small arms, communications gear, living quarters for PMCs and the like. Merchant ships would hire mercenaries (either independent operators or hired in small groups from companies.) or in some cases just rent the guns and hope the crew could handle themselves. Then once outside of the waters deemed dangerous the merchant ship would stop at another floating armory and offload the mercenaries and weapons. Both unload and offload and all of the miles sailed were done in international waters so it side stepped the main issue.

Yes from what I understand the ransom proccess did get pretty mechanical for a while. Though from what I understand most of the actual incidents never got reported to the public for PR reasons. For the big shipping companies from what I understand the big issue encouraging paying the ransom (besides wanting their ship back) is that if they didn't it would inevitabily get out among the maritime community and that company might really struggle to recruit sailors in the future.
 
It'd probably be easily doable in the Span Am War. Something intended to allow more raiding of Spanish supply ships to their Colonies at no cost to the USN. Also maybe for longer ranged raiding hitting some spanish flagged merchant ships off the Canariez and in European waters also at no cost to USN. Perhaps with the goal of forcing the Spanish to devote more warships to Home waters and less available to send to the Caribbean. Also if the US German war scares over Samoa and Venezuela had gone hot I could see privateers being used
 
I am going to say - Anti Piracy operations off the Horn of Africa in the last 10-20 years

Say a UN / Western powers sponsored mission that pays for Privateers to police/crackdown on Somali pirates etc

Sort of an extension to the OTL practice of some ships employing armed guards while transiting the area
 
3. Many other countries, including US allies will protest, since it will cause a dangerous precedent: imagine an Egyptian ship with letter of marque hunting merchant ships en route to Israel or Indian corsair attacking merchant ships going to Pakistan. Without a declaration of war. Any country might try such a trick against a pesky neighbour
Unlike the USA, those countries had signed not to use Privateers, so wasn't an option for them
And for treating US Citizens and Killing them as Pirates, when they were not, also has repercussions
Like Privateers attacking and sinking those 2nd World Merchantmen when they don't surrender.
The Soviet Navy isn't large enough to do convoys for Soviet flagged vessels, let alone the rest of the WP

Soviet Q Ships would likely be attacked by USN for attacking US Flagged ships, so that's not a winner either

So short of declaring War, the USSR can't stop it, as the US can Veto anything in the UN

Effect overall, North Vietnam is choked off from trade by Sea, and cannot support operations in South Vietnam and Laos
 
Unlike the USA, those countries had signed not to use Privateers, so wasn't an option for them
And for treating US Citizens and Killing them as Pirates, when they were not, also has repercussions
Like Privateers attacking and sinking those 2nd World Merchantmen when they don't surrender.
The Soviet Navy isn't large enough to do convoys for Soviet flagged vessels, let alone the rest of the WP

Soviet Q Ships would likely be attacked by USN for attacking US Flagged ships, so that's not a winner either

So short of declaring War, the USSR can't stop it, as the US can Veto anything in the UN

Effect overall, North Vietnam is choked off from trade by Sea, and cannot support operations in South Vietnam and Laos

It just seems much easier to me to declare a blockade and have the USN search every vessel trying to breach it for contraband.
 
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