There is some precedent for using oil as a weapon – at the start of the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein ordered an estimated 11 million barrels of crude oil to be poured into the Gulf. What ecological damage could a criminal or terrorist organization effect with such a ship?
Last month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its report, "Global Trends 2025 – a Transformed World," which suggested, in part, that "some states might wither away as governments fail to provide security and other basic needs." While not all potential failed states are located in proximity to major shipping lanes, as Somalia is ies with the Gulf of Aden, port facilities or oil and gas fields might be at risk to future stateless areas and/or nonstate actors.
With the exception of private pleasure craft attacked on occasion in the Caribbean, piracy no longer occurs around North America. In distant waters, few US built, flagged, or manned commercial ships ply their trade; therefore few US ships are affected. But while piracy may not present an immediate or direct threat to US national security interests, its consequences can affect everyone.
Insurance rates for ships transiting the Gulf of Aden are increasing 10-fold. The risk to personnel and cargo if a ship is hijacked is escalating, and tens of millions of dollars have already been paid out in ransom to pirates this year.