Preventing Pirates, Protecting Passengers

About 6:15 in the morning, officers watching 24-hours from the Ship’s Bridge off the coast of Africa, spot a small dhow fishing boat sailing slowly towards them. Since they have no idea of the ship’s security, the men on the dhow check out signs that indicate a soft target ship because it does not respond to them.  Immediately, a skiff is launched from the dhow with one or two men on board to approach the large vessel carrying all kinds of cargo.Image

If these scouts notice no opposition again from the ship, the remaining 4-5 men on the dhow board more skiffs and begin surrounding the vessel.  Next, the attackers board the ship, take control and hostages and demand ransom. The attackers are the pirates operating in the world today.Image

But if the ship has an armed security team on board, like some ships now have, the attack stops when the pirate scouts get too close to the ship. And when they do, fire hoses are engaged and used to blow the pirates out of their skiffs to disable the attack. One after the other, the security team stops the pirates and their boats. Even flares are shot above them and in the water so they can see the flash and splash to scare them off.Image

If the pirates continue their attack, the security team holds sharp shooter rifles over their heads for the pirates to see they have weapons and will shoot to kill. Most pirates then will turn around and leave to find another ship that is vulnerable.

Should the pirates choose to continue the attack, the security team fires another warning shot so they can see the splash and if the pirates continue their approach, the security team begins the “shoot to kill” defense on the pirates.

If the pirates succeed in getting on board, the security team has failed at their job. Then the military teams from the ship’s home country or the country nearest the ship has to rush to help. Hopefully all ends well for the ship and its cargo so it can continue freely to its intended port.Image

Pirating today happens because the pirates believe they have been wronged by someone. And they learned that holding a boat for ransom can yield money, lots of money.  Fishing territory has been invaded by others or oil riches have not included the pirates and these make them mad. Pirating large ships, they learned, can yield even more money.

Rarely, a cruise ship with passengers is the pirate’s target and the Bridge immediately announces a suspicious sighting to all on board. Protecting the passengers and crew on each ship is number one importance and all are told to proceed to their muster stations on ship. Muster stations are located in several areas of the ship so all passengers will be together and their location known so abandoning ship will be easier and orderly.

After going through the normal muster procedures, all passengers are safe on board. But should the pirates enter the ship then all are sent to the bottom of the ship for further safety precautions. The crew regularly practices all situations that could possibly happen on a ship’s voyage to make sure all others are safe.

Security teams have to be well trained in all aspects besides precision shooting. Each must know about every area of a ship they are guarding, gun rules and regulations, survival techniques, health and safety solutions,  fire safety and fire hose operation, respecting people’s cultures , weapon knowledge and techniques,  general maritime and port security  and international law.

The pirates take to the sea in a dhow to search for a soft target for their ransom money. Loaded on the dhow are food, water, fuel, and the pirates with the clothes on their back.  Most sail around the ocean for 3 or 4 months just waiting for a victim and they can run out of supplies if they don’t succeed in hijacking a ship.

Many times they run out of supplies. Furthermore, many cargo ships, when hearing the pirate’s distress call, answer them and learn they need to be rescued.

In a humanitarian move, many ship captains rescue the pirates, feed them and return them to their country.  And so far, no ship has been boarded or hijacked that has an armed security team on board. And officers on 24-hour watch in the Bridge rarely notice suspicious activity anymore.

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