Pirates circumvent defensive measures, says the current newsletter from the NATO Shipping Centre.
Recent observations of Somali pirate tactics indicate that they are employing a new technique to board merchant vessels that are using razor wire as a defensive measure to prevent unauthorized boardings. The pirates are throwing blankets and ladders over the wire to circumvent this security measure.
Simultaneously, pirates in skiffs shoot at the vessel to facilitate the boarding attempt. Mariners are advised to incorporate this information into their practices using all suitable tools described in “Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy”.
Use of new technology
A new version (version 3) of the Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy is now under development, expected to be published mid June 2010.
Whilst awaiting publication, we would like to mention the constant technological developments which may be available to the merchant navy, with a view to highlighting the potential for improving overall ship security and/or on-board self-protection measures. We must emphasise that we don’t recommend any specific company, nor do NATO endorse any of the mentioned tools, but we do draw your attention to a number of the now widespread possibilities, giving a few examples here. The examples are collected from open sources without any confirmation.
The technology ranges from detection sensors and situation awareness systems to non-lethal devices that attempt to keep the attackers at a distance, or at least prevent them from boarding. There are several 360° detection systems to observe even small skiffs with a range of approx 15-20 Nautical Miles.
Of non-lethal defence could be mentioned that powerful remote-controlled water/fire hose systems are constantly developed, there are audible warnings/suppression systems with 140 db (above threshold of pain), there are coherent laser systems, incoherent (intense) spot lights, and launched entanglements.
The Long Range Acoustic Device or LRAD is used by some non-UK Armed Forces for anti-ship boarding and some major cruise ships employ this technology for their ship defence plans.
Another example of “stand-off” technology can be found in the “Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System” or V-MADS. This device, currently under development by the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the Department of Defense’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, sends a narrow beam of 95 GHz millimetre waves towards an identified object out to 700 yards, which may offer a defence against most rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and accurate small arms fire. The beam penetrates less than 1/64th of an inch of the subject’s skin and produces an intense burning sensation that stops when the subject moves out of the beam or the beam is blocked.
Two other close-in defences should be mentioned. The first is an application of nets and booms, developed by a UK-based anti-piracy maritime security company. This technology is designed to be deployed when a threat appears, whilst being easily recovered and re-stowed by hand while underway. The intent is to foul the prop of the pirate’s small boat engine, causing the small craft to capsize or swamp in the wake created by the larger ship’s forward motion.
Another new product on the market that may help in prevention measures is an anti-traction system. “The Mobility Denial System" (MDS) is a non-hazardous chemical spray system that spreads a highly slippery, viscous gel to inhibit the movement of individuals or vehicles on treated surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, grass, and wood. There are a number of remote controlled spray devices – incorporating CCTV aiming and control systems – that would permit accurate application of the substance from a safe location.