From Cameron McPhail.
FOR years Jersey has been seeking to diversify its economic base, but with little real success. However, with finance now allegedly a dead man walking and Panorama’s reporters stalking the streets of St Helier, the search is truly on for a major new source of both income and employment.
Thankfully, the article in Tuesday’s JEP about the sunken treasure ship off Alderney pointed the way and now may be just the time to seize the day.
As a matter of urgency, Jersey should consider branching out into the increasingly lucrative field of international piracy. If a ragtag bunch of antediluvian Somali corsairs can hijack an armada of commercial shipping, including a supertanker worth £100m, just think what a committed and well-resourced Jersey-based initiative could achieve.
Properly organised, Jersey could soon become the natural Western European haven for any resurgent piracy trade in both the North Atlantic and the Western Approaches. If you remain unconvinced, just think of the following:
• Jersey sits on the edge of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and has an armada of under-utilised überfast boats lying at anchor in the Island’s chic marinas.
• Fog and sea mists regularly blanket the coast, so sorties from the Island would be hidden from view. Besides, Jersey can always blame either France or Guernsey if Europe’s maritime authorities ask any questions about their missing ships.
• Privateer costumes, for both children and adults, can be bought for as little as £9.50 on the internet (ex-GST and including inflatable Norwegian Blue parrot, eye patch and wooden leg).
• The pirate accent is easy and fun to master, as are their many traditional catchphrases and sea shanties.
• There are obvious economic synergies with the Island’s banking, tourist and heritage industries. Of course, the Maritime Museum would be renamed the Captain Pugwash Interactive Experience. The steps required to ensure that this initiative is launched would seem to be self-evident and eminently do-able, provided that funds are made available from the Island’s Stabilisation Fund. Without wishing to pre-empt any States-led initiative, I would suggest the following:
• The States should employ management consultants, probably Oxera’s Maritime Division, to put together a coherent and detailed five-year business plan for the industry.
• In parallel with a public consultation process, the proposed venture should be debated regularly in the States and the pages of the JEP until the window of opportunity has well and truly passed.
• Particular care will have to be taken to thoroughly discuss the significant health and safety issues associated with the nascent industry. Sadly, I suspect that this will result in our increasingly intrusive nanny state toning down the time-honoured pirate customs of walking the plank, keelhauling and dancing the hempen jig.
• J-category applications are made for Jersey’s chief executive of Piracy, head of Piracy Operations and director of Piracy Marketing. Of course, the licences would be granted only after ensuring that there were no suitably qualified local candidates for these key jobs.
• A States Department of Piracy and Privateering (PAP) should be established and headquartered in one of the Island’s pristine Waterfront office developments. This directorate will be charged with establishing the appropriate non-compliance, kidnap-your-customer and money-laundering procedures required for the industry to operate within the guidelines set by both the OECD and the IMF.
• John Christensen should be the shoo-in chairman of the Offshore Pirates for Justice campaign.
• Under the auspices of the honorary police, press gangs should be established to prowl the streets of St Helier on Friday and Saturday nights, signing up the bailiwick’s more inebriated citizens in a fashionably Keynesian response to the Island’s emerging unemployment problem!
• Working in conjunction with the Gulf of Aden Polytechnic, Highlands College should set up degree courses in piracy, buccaneering and skullduggery. Post-graduate qualifications would follow. Pieces of eight and 15 men on a dead man’s chest!
24 Château Royale,