Sea Transportation: Defenses Against Pirates


December 28, 2005: Some companies that operate freighters or fishing vessels in pirate infested waters, such as those off Somalia or those around the Straits of Malacca, have begun to take steps to enhance ship security. Both passive and active anti-piracy measures have been seen in use.

Many of the passive measures are similar to those already in use in the waters of the region by smugglers and others who prefer not to be boarded by customs officials or warships forming part of the coalition against international terrorism. For example, lining the ship's rail with barbed wire, welding shut some hatches, and so forth.

Since merchant ships can afford to have only two or three men on watch most of the time, some companies have supplied their ships with automated surface radars, to sound alarms if anything approaches, and have even placed motion sensors on their ships, in case someone attempts a surreptitious boarding.

Quite a number of "non-lethal weapons" have also been adopted, such as the powerful sonic "cannon" that a luxury cruise ship used a few months to discourage attack. In addition, some ships are reportedly using fire hoses and even steam lines, that can be played on anyone attempting to board. Another measure is to uses an electrified "fence" jutting out from the ship's sides that can provide an intruder with a 9,000 volt jolt. Less spectacular measures include the use of pepper sprays and "tanglefoot" foams or glues that can be sprayed on decks. One technology reportedly in the works uses low frequency sound waves that are supposed to induce bowel movements.

Reportedly, some companies have been quietly providing arms to their merchant seamen, though this is generally denied. Nevertheless, at least some vessels working along the Somali coast have been found to have small, heavily armed security details aboard, hired through agents of the more reliable autonomous regimes in Somaliland and Puntland, in the northern part of the country.


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