Latest possible use of privateering in naval operations

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
The US informally agreed not to use Privateers, if Spain did not.
They also did not sign the anti-privateering agreements

So while both countries had privateers available, neither issued Letters of Marque
The Navy did buy a number of Civilian Ships and commissioned them into the USN as naval auxilleries, who typically had kept their civilian crews, while having a USN Captain and XO to assist with the Blockade of Cuba, and a number of Spanish vessels were captured that way, and crews did receive Prize Money even.
Other were used to drag and cut Spanish Communication cables.
 
It just seems much easier to me to declare a blockade and have the USN search every vessel trying to breach it for contraband.
only can have a blockade that's considered an Act of War, and LBJ didn't want that. Privateering lets you sidestep that
 
The US informally agreed not to use Privateers, if Spain did not.
They also did not sign the anti-privateering agreements

So while both countries had privateers available, neither issued Letters of Marque
The Navy did buy a number of Civilian Ships and commissioned them into the USN as naval auxilleries, who typically had kept their civilian crews, while having a USN Captain and XO to assist with the Blockade of Cuba, and a number of Spanish vessels were captured that way, and crews did receive Prize Money even.
Other were used to drag and cut Spanish Communication cables.

Yeah I knew about the use of AMCs, armed yachts and so on often with crews that were often largely the same as they had been briefly before in their civilian lives. I vaguely remember their being a case or two of situations where millionaires who temporarily donated their yachts to the navy being allowed to served as captain or something.

You're right about Prize money still being alotted out. The last issuance by the USN was in 1947 for a German blockade runner captured in 1940.

I've thought about the negativity of the term "privateer" for early 20th centry/late 19th century wars before. I was kind of thinking of a special category of USN Reserve where a ships owners nominally leases their ship to the navy for a single dollar with the provision that they can continue to effectively independently run them as long as they agree to pay all costs to arm, outfit, and crew them themselves. All crew and officers receive commissions in that special category of the USNR. And because as time goes on actually sending a captured ship into court for a prize crew becomes increasingly imposible the US gov agrees to pay a bounty for every enemy ship sunk based on a formula of that ship and it's cargoe's value to the war effort. This payment is to be dispersed among the leased ships owners and crew on some sort of ratio.

Boom no "privateers" but the USN get's some free raiders that will attack enemy shipping meanwhile the ships owner and the volunteer crew get a nice paycheck if they manage to sink or scuttle any enemy merchant ships.
 
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
Again, any action of a US sanctioned privateer will be legally considered the action of the US government. So if a privateer intercepts on international waters a Romanian ship, it is as a US Navy warship does it. And if the US government is ready for such escalation, why not use US Navy instead? There is simply no reason to use privateers.
I can imagine quite a lot of countries withdrawing from that convention because hey, if USA does not follow it why should we? And we have a chaos on international waters. Guess who will be blamed for letting the djinn out of the bottle?
Soviet Navy does not need to organize convoys - just arm their merchant ships. Would US Navy ship attack a Soviet ship defending itself from a US privateer? The escalation would be terrible and nobody wanted it. And besides, that would mean that privateers need an escort from the US Navy. So what, every privateer will have a frigate or destroyer as a bodyguard? Then what is the privateer for? The reguar Navy ship is already there.
 
Again, any action of a US sanctioned privateer will be legally considered the action of the US government. So if a privateer intercepts on international waters a Romanian ship, it is as a US Navy warship does it. And if the US government is ready for such escalation, why not use US Navy instead? There is simply no reason to use privateers.
I can imagine quite a lot of countries withdrawing from that convention because hey, if USA does not follow it why should we? And we have a chaos on international waters. Guess who will be blamed for letting the djinn out of the bottle?
Soviet Navy does not need to organize convoys - just arm their merchant ships. Would US Navy ship attack a Soviet ship defending itself from a US privateer? The escalation would be terrible and nobody wanted it. And besides, that would mean that privateers need an escort from the US Navy. So what, every privateer will have a frigate or destroyer as a bodyguard? Then what is the privateer for? The reguar Navy ship is already there.
How well armed do you think soviet merchantmen can be ?
Can we have some rules and regulations regarding these privateer operations?
Like no use of long range anti ship missiles? Board and investigate first before capturing or sinking ships ?
 
Why would you act as privateering vessels. A lot of piracy is internal. Increasingly ships crews are kidnapped as part of an inside job. A few of the crew are pirates who come in as ordinary sailors or are bought off to let pirates or mercenaries onto a ship so they can kidnap the crew and ransom the ship. For some companies it is bad business to let people know their ship has been taken from the inside and held hostage. This happens on a more secret level than public privateering. A carefully planned operation happens where they infiltrate the crew, defeat its defenses, then board the ship holding it hostage. They also can get ahold of the cargo manifest and rob the ship of valuables taking a few of the crew as hostages for good behavior so they won't call for help. It is more likely sophisticated operations where oil is transferred from a container ship will happen than regular privateering.

Imagine a large corporation is moving pepper in the atlantic. A sailor informs some pirates, they get aboard, empty the ships safe, take loose equipment, and make off with $2 million dollars worth of pepper. Four crew members are held hostage for good behavior.

The pirates are part of an organized crime network and sometimes are paid to attack certain ships. They are not privateers but have been hired by corporations and governments to attack certain ships.

North Korea is supposed to have used pirate style tactics to avoid sanctions.
 
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How well armed do you think soviet merchantmen can be ?
Can we have some rules and regulations regarding these privateer operations?
Like no use of long range anti ship missiles? Board and investigate first before capturing or sinking ships ?
A few light or automatic cannons can be enough, after all privateer would not have reguar warships either.
Since most of the countries promised not to use privateers it would be hard to introduce some regulations. However, if those countries withdraw from the convention, I think the only limit will be practical. Installing anti ship missiles on a merchant ship would also require military grade radar etc. so not many countries could afford it.
ROE for privateers would also be hard to establish and enforce. If there are no witnesses, you can not accuse a Mozambique privateer of sinking a South African ship without warning. "We did warn them, they tried to run anyway, so we had to sink them. Unfortunatelyvthere were no survivors."
But one thing would be certain - actions of the privateers will be considered actions of their governments. Therefore if one country use a privateer against another, it is an act of war and privateers themselves are legitimate targets. You can not say: "but we did no attack them, that was a private intiative of some of our citizens." You can not say: "Our civilian ship was cowardly attacked by Navy X while it was minding his own business harassing merchant ships of the country X". If a privateer has a letter of marque from a government, he is an agent of that government, and that government is responsible for anything a privateer does. Otherwise it is a piracy.
 
Closest thing to this that occurred to me would be the floating armories that popped up for a while during the height of Somalian piracy and that still exist on a smaller scale in certain other piracy heavy (but much less intense then say Somalian waters at their height) regions. While privateers were inherently offensive (since they were making money by capturing or occasionally sinking enemy merchant ships) floating armories were more defensive. And also unlike privateers the floating armories themselves weren't hunting pirates or the like.

They just took advantage of a loophole. Before the Somalian piracy crisis (and to a degree today) countries were very iffy about commercial ships carrying firearms (other then say those in bonded containers for arms exports) into their ports. Which meant that commercial ships initially even when getting regularly attacked by pirates couldn't actually carry so much as handguns for the crew to defend themselves and their ship.

Floating armories took advantage that the problem was the crews guns entering/exiting ports. If the guns never entered another countries territorial waters then the problem was massively reduced since countries weren't going to get pissed about guns in international waters they would about loose guns entering their ports.

The floating armories were generally converted merchant ships or barges more or less permanently moored in international water with as the name suggests a sizable armory of small arms, complements of PMCs, living quarters for the PMCs and support staff, and other such related stuff. Merchant ships that would go through areas deemed risky in terms of potential pirate attack would deviate from their route and stop by the floating armory. There they would either just rent some small arms or more commonly rent small arms and hire some PMCs to guard the ship. Then the ship would traverse said risky waters and after exiting them would meet up with another floating armory and drop off the guns and PMCs.

It's a nifty little loophole in regulations that meant that not every single ship had to beg for a escort by warships or try and get their government or a friendly government to let them borrow a few soldiers and marines were a while.

With Somalian piracy way down the floating armories have shrunk in number but there are still a few in business.
 
Closest thing to this that occurred to me would be the floating armories that popped up for a while during the height of Somalian piracy and that still exist on a smaller scale in certain other piracy heavy (but much less intense then say Somalian waters at their height) regions. While privateers were inherently offensive (since they were making money by capturing or occasionally sinking enemy merchant ships) floating armories were more defensive. And also unlike privateers the floating armories themselves weren't hunting pirates or the like.

They just took advantage of a loophole. Before the Somalian piracy crisis (and to a degree today) countries were very iffy about commercial ships carrying firearms (other then say those in bonded containers for arms exports) into their ports. Which meant that commercial ships initially even when getting regularly attacked by pirates couldn't actually carry so much as handguns for the crew to defend themselves and their ship.

Floating armories took advantage that the problem was the crews guns entering/exiting ports. If the guns never entered another countries territorial waters then the problem was massively reduced since countries weren't going to get pissed about guns in international waters they would about loose guns entering their ports.

The floating armories were generally converted merchant ships or barges more or less permanently moored in international water with as the name suggests a sizable armory of small arms, complements of PMCs, living quarters for the PMCs and support staff, and other such related stuff. Merchant ships that would go through areas deemed risky in terms of potential pirate attack would deviate from their route and stop by the floating armory. There they would either just rent some small arms or more commonly rent small arms and hire some PMCs to guard the ship. Then the ship would traverse said risky waters and after exiting them would meet up with another floating armory and drop off the guns and PMCs.

It's a nifty little loophole in regulations that meant that not every single ship had to beg for a escort by warships or try and get their government or a friendly government to let them borrow a few soldiers and marines were a while.

With Somalian piracy way down the floating armories have shrunk in number but there are still a few in business.
Wouldn’t something like this be an ideal target for a terrorist organization? Take a floating armory and ton of weapons with it
 
Wouldn’t something like this be an ideal target for a terrorist organization? Take a floating armory and ton of weapons with it

Perhaps. But you're also attacking a bunch of heavily armed mercenaries moored far from land (meaning you need a larger longer ranged boat to attack and if the Mercs are even borderline competent odds are they'll see it a good ways off). And frankly the public (other then say PMC family members) don't really care if PMC's get killed. Part of the reason why they've grown so popular and large during the War on Terror. A active duty Marine getting killed and coming back to Dover AFB in a steel coffin causes some bad PR. A private PMC dying doesn't really gather much attention.

And at least in terms of acquiring firearms it's way cheaper to just buy them on the black market or in a lot of countries just purchase them from corrupt soldiers/policemen.
 

CalBear

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Problem # 1 with privateering is that there is no way any privately operated vessel can handle even a relatively small warship. To use the apparently very popular idea of using them off Vietnam as an example -

Soviets decide that this is a rather blatant effort by the U.S. to have it's cake and eat it too. As a result they send several SOVIET and POLISH FLAGGED merchant ships, escorted by a pair of Sverdov class light cruisers, a Kresta class CG, and four Gnevny class destroyers. The escort, of course, would last maybe half an hour against a CBG, against any number of privateers? Death on a stick.

Destroyers stop for fuel once at a Chinese Port (or, just to be REAL jerks about it, one of the cruisers makes a "friendly port call" in Hong Kong with a DD and they refuel there), and sail into Haiphong.

What are on the merchies? Glad you asked. Six Osa class and two Komar class missile boats, sent as a fraternal gift to the Vietnamese people. A Komar class boat was the the first combatant to sink an enemy using SSM, INS Eliat (nee' HMS Zealous). Even if the "privateers" have somehow purchased non demilitarized Fletcher or Sumner class DD, they are over matched. The SS-N-2 Styx will blow any WW II era destroyer out of the water at least 45 minutes before it can get into gun range.

At the same time the Moscow and Hanoi announce a long term lease for space in Haiphong Harbor that will serve as a Soviet Naval Facility as part of the USSR's clear responsibility, as a permanent member of the UNSC to ensure that the Law of the Seas are followed. Piracy has been reported in the area.

Now the U.S. has managed to not only push Hanoi to provide long term basing rights in Vietnam, but, much worse, has made any bombing attack against Haiphong extremely hazardous since dumb bombs might just put a hole in a Soviet Warshhip and mining the approaches to Haiphong would be a clear unfriendly act against the USSR, one that clearly is a provocation requiring a response from the peace-loving Soviet People should it continue.

Over all the U.S. look like idiots on several levels.

Problem # 2 - That U.S. privateer tangles with an Oso and sinks, with major loss of life. What does the U.S. do? Legally it can do exactly NOTHING because the attack was not against an American Warship but against a privateer operating outside generally recognized standards (including by most NATO members). More bad press for the Administration, and some more long term resident of the Hanoi Hilton (assume the Vietnamese actually extend PoW handling to the survivors, which is NOT a requirement).

The idea is a negative gift that keeps on taking.
 
Problem # 1 with privateering is that there is no way any privately operated vessel can handle even a relatively small warship. To use the apparently very popular idea of using them off Vietnam as an example -

Soviets decide that this is a rather blatant effort by the U.S. to have it's cake and eat it too. As a result they send several SOVIET and POLISH FLAGGED merchant ships, escorted by a pair of Sverdov class light cruisers, a Kresta class CG, and four Gnevny class destroyers. The escort, of course, would last maybe half an hour against a CBG, against any number of privateers? Death on a stick.

Destroyers stop for fuel once at a Chinese Port (or, just to be REAL jerks about it, one of the cruisers makes a "friendly port call" in Hong Kong with a DD and they refuel there), and sail into Haiphong.

What are on the merchies? Glad you asked. Six Osa class and two Komar class missile boats, sent as a fraternal gift to the Vietnamese people. A Komar class boat was the the first combatant to sink an enemy using SSM, INS Eliat (nee' HMS Zealous). Even if the "privateers" have somehow purchased non demilitarized Fletcher or Sumner class DD, they are over matched. The SS-N-2 Styx will blow any WW II era destroyer out of the water at least 45 minutes before it can get into gun range.

At the same time the Moscow and Hanoi announce a long term lease for space in Haiphong Harbor that will serve as a Soviet Naval Facility as part of the USSR's clear responsibility, as a permanent member of the UNSC to ensure that the Law of the Seas are followed. Piracy has been reported in the area.

Now the U.S. has managed to not only push Hanoi to provide long term basing rights in Vietnam, but, much worse, has made any bombing attack against Haiphong extremely hazardous since dumb bombs might just put a hole in a Soviet Warshhip and mining the approaches to Haiphong would be a clear unfriendly act against the USSR, one that clearly is a provocation requiring a response from the peace-loving Soviet People should it continue.

Over all the U.S. look like idiots on several levels.

Problem # 2 - That U.S. privateer tangles with an Oso and sinks, with major loss of life. What does the U.S. do? Legally it can do exactly NOTHING because the attack was not against an American Warship but against a privateer operating outside generally recognized standards (including by most NATO members). More bad press for the Administration, and some more long term resident of the Hanoi Hilton (assume the Vietnamese actually extend PoW handling to the survivors, which is NOT a requirement).

The idea is a negative gift that keeps on taking.
What about US privateers crewed by South Korean Taiwanese or phillipino sailors ? No loss of American life
And have them operate from smaller craft and in the shallower waters and littorals
Soviet FAC are not so numerous to chase down every single ship , it’s not worth the effort anyway
Offshore mobile bases might be an option if piracy on high seas is required

if soviet navy tries to intervene screen the privateers with a trip wire force of USN vessels
 

CalBear

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What about US privateers crewed by South Korean Taiwanese or phillipino sailors ? No loss of American life
And have them operate from smaller craft and in the shallower waters and littorals
Soviet FAC are not so numerous to chase down every single ship , it’s not worth the effort anyway
Offshore mobile bases might be an option if piracy on high seas is required

if soviet navy tries to intervene screen the privateers with a trip wire force of USN vessels
Piracy is a plain old crime that falls under the purview of any interested warship regardless of flag.

Once you bring the USN into "screen" you are simply demonstrating that the whole privateer issue is a poorly managed smokescreen.

Privateers also can not use their Letters against neutral flagged vessels (which is pretty much all of them) Even if the "war" part of the practice is expanded to include what was very much not a war in any internationally legal sense, the Letter would only apply to ships flying the flag of the PRVN, not to ships flying the flags of Panama, Poland, the USSR, the PRC, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, etc. Boarding/seizing cargo of a neutral flagged vessel by private parties is straight up piracy.

Cheaper, easier and, perhaps most importantly, in keeping with what, at the time was 150 of official U.S. policy (the last U.S. letter was issued by Congress during the War of 1812) to simply use the Navy

Another factor to consider if we want to get down into the weeds on this, is exactly which party is more vulnerable to privateers? North Vietnam, with so few commercial ships that they don't even show up in the statistics, or the United States, with, at the time, 22,000,000+ tons of registered shipping?
 
Piracy is a plain old crime that falls under the purview of any interested warship regardless of flag.

Once you bring the USN into "screen" you are simply demonstrating that the whole privateer issue is a poorly managed smokescreen.

Privateers also can not use their Letters against neutral flagged vessels (which is pretty much all of them) Even if the "war" part of the practice is expanded to include what was very much not a war in any internationally legal sense, the Letter would only apply to ships flying the flag of the PRVN, not to ships flying the flags of Panama, Poland, the USSR, the PRC, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, etc. Boarding/seizing cargo of a neutral flagged vessel by private parties is straight up piracy.

Cheaper, easier and, perhaps most importantly, in keeping with what, at the time was 150 of official U.S. policy (the last U.S. letter was issued by Congress during the War of 1812) to simply use the Navy

Another factor to consider if we want to get down into the weeds on this, is exactly which party is more vulnerable to privateers? North Vietnam, with so few commercial ships that they don't even show up in the statistics, or the United States, with, at the time, 22,000,000+ tons of registered shipping?
Right that’s a good point
Privateering will be the tactic of the far weaker naval power which has much less to lose from disruption of maritime trade than a bigger established naval power which relies on global trade
 
As a result they send several SOVIET and POLISH FLAGGED merchant ships, escorted by a pair of Sverdov class light cruisers, a Kresta class CG, and four Gnevny class destroyers. The escort, of course, would last maybe half an hour against a CBG, against any number of privateers? Death on a stick
But then they are out of place for what they would regularly be doing, waiting for WWIII, and the large Soviet ships were not spending a lot of time on the high sea, so would be needing refit far more often
So in a way, It also make for good practice on USN subs tracking them, and theSov subs they would be sending along also.
Convoys also reduce shipping efficiency, so a second win.
Doesn't matter if the Privateers never touch an escorted convoy. Its making the Soviets expend effort that they didn't have to before.
 

CalBear

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But then they are out of place for what they would regularly be doing, waiting for WWIII, and the large Soviet ships were not spending a lot of time on the high sea, so would be needing refit far more often
So in a way, It also make for good practice on USN subs tracking them, and theSov subs they would be sending along also.
Convoys also reduce shipping efficiency, so a second win.
Doesn't matter if the Privateers never touch an escorted convoy. Its making the Soviets expend effort that they didn't have to before.
One time.

Now they can simply leave a light cruiser, a couple WW II DD and have a nice base that flanks both Cam Ranh Bay and Manila much more closely than anything they had before.

The can go out to escort any Soviet flagged shipping, but they really do not have to. Since the U.S. is not at war with the USSR, no privateer has the right to go anywhere near a Soviet (or Polish, East German, PRC, Panamanian, or any other neutral power) shipping. Blockades/Quarantines have to be conducted by WARSHIPS, privateers that try it are actually pirates. That means any country's warships have the right to hunt them down and take the crew into custody, at which point they can be sent to the country whose ship made the capture or any nearby state for trial as they are considered to be "enemies of Mankind" (Hostis humani generis).
 
I guess seizure of ships today fall into grey areas when embargoed countries trade to other embargoed countries through red flag companies. seized ships have been chartered by these companies as according to the us government for illegal acts of trade but im sure to those countries it is piracy to them .
 
And at least in terms of acquiring firearms it's way cheaper to just buy them on the black market or in a lot of countries just purchase them from corrupt soldiers/policemen.
You could pick an AK up for $10 and an RPG launcher for $80 in Basra market in 2004, from what we were told. I'm sure the prices aren't too dissimilar in areas of Mogadishu, Kabul, Khartoum or even Bogota. Seems much easier than having a mentally damaged Russian ex-paratrooper having a crack at you with a Dushka while you float around on a small boat.
 
Its fascinating how the romance of Letters of Marque seems to overpower the dull tedium of practicality. As I understand it their one and only reason for existence was to allow governments to bolster their naval power by capitalism. A wealthy person or group kitted out and crewed a warship and temporarily joined a naval campaign in exchange for loot. That’s it.
In order to get some extra ships out there the navy & politicians ignored the many obvious disadvantages in terms of command authority, standardisation, discipline etc and not least, allowing civilians to go out and potentially drag the country into an unwanted war by attacking the wrong ship. There are no other legal or political advantages as far as I know.

In modern times it seems like all of these things have become irrelevant since the cost of acquiring, supplying and crewing a minimally effective warship outstrip the value of any possible loot to a ridiculous degree. So a nation-state would have to underwrite all of this (taking away resources from their own actual navy) and for what? To acquire a theoretically ‘civilian’ warship for the sole purpose of issuing it a piece of paper that basically says ‘this vessel is to be considered part of our navy as regards all its actions and any actions taken against it’.
Why bother? Even if one considers the CIA or KGB kitting out such a ship for so an ally (South Africa? Angola?) can ‘marque’ it, the ploy is so transparent that they might as well skip the retro paperwork and just flat-out gift them either a warship or sufficient cash to buy one from a third party.

The one niche left seems like it would be dressing up piracy, e.g. somewhere like Djibouti or Equatorial Guinea issuing letters to their local pirates but this again seems like it would fail the sniff test pretty quickly, since the “considered part of our navy” would basically amount to a declaration of war against half the shipping nations in the world.
What various states probably really want is the exact opposite of a letter of marque, something that gives guaranteed deniability rather than accountability.
 
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