Big in Japan: Real pirates are nothing like Johnny Depp

Have you ever seen Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean?

Of course you have!

The wild and drunken antics of Johnny Depp are nothing short of hilarious, which is why Disney’s Pirates trilogy has swept the globe from Hollywood to Tokyo.

But, today’s posting isn’t about the Black Pearl, but rather the distressing fact that real pirates aren’t anything like Johnny Depp.

Since October, Somali pirates have been occupying a Japanese chemical tanker, and demanding a ransom of US$1 million (that’s dollars, not gold doubloons).

The Panama-registered MV Golden Nori was carrying an enormous amount of benzene from Singapore to Israel when it was hijacked on October 28, just off Somalia in one of the world’s most dangerous shipping lanes.

Just to be clear…

Nori (????) is a delicious Japanese snack of pressed, roasted and salted sheets of seaweed that can be eaten whole or crumpled up over just about anything.

Benzene (????????????) is a colorless, sweet-smelling and highly flammable liquid that is used as an industrial solvent.

Anyway, according to an article last week by the Nairobi division of Reuters, the pirates decided to abandon ship without hurting any of its crew.

Of course, being that real pirates and Disney pirates do have some things in common, namely that they don’t surrender without a fight, these Somali raiders weren’t so easy to shake off.

Prior to them jumping ship, the Japanese vessel was cornered by the United States navy, who fired on the speedboats pulling the Nori without prejudice.

Following their decisive victory, Lieutenant John Gay of the U.S. Navy Central Command in Bahrain gave the following statement: “All the pirates are off the vessel. The U.S. Navy has a ship nearby. We’re standing by to offer assistance.”

Sadly, there was no booty of gold and gems to be recovered from the fleeing pirates, though at least for time being, the Golden Nori and its somewhat unsexy cargo of benzene are in safer waters.

Of course, the waters around Somalia are a notorious haven for pirates, and it’s likely that other Japanese tankers (with less amusing names than the Golden Nori) will be seized in the near future.

In fact, this hijacking is actually quite unique as Somali pirates have become quite adept at demanding ransoms, and have in several cases cashed in on their bounty.

This past August, Somali pirates freed a Danish cargo ship, the MV Danica White, and its five Danish sailors in safe condition, after a security company paid a US$1.5 million ransom.

Generally speaking, ransom demands are determined by the size of the ship, its cargo and the nationalities of its crew.

Needless to say, a cool US$1.5 million can buy a seemingly limitless supply of pirate’s rum.

Of course, being that Somalia is largely controlled by Islamic fundamentalists, and that alcohol is illegal throughout most of the country, it’s a safe bet that the ransom won’t be drunken away in true Pirates of the Caribbean fashion.