“The current edition is ‘BMP 4,’
and contains advice on communications and reporting procedures, self-protection methods, typical pirate
attack details and a host of important information,” Hearn said.
Vessel owners are advised to follow BMP as appropriate for their
own ships. For some companies,
this has meant employing ship
self-defense methods to protect
against pirate attacks when there is
no other help nearby.
According to retired Italian Navy
Rear Adm. Massimo Annati, an
expert on maritime security and
nonlethal weapons, there are a number of commercial nonlethal systems
available to ship operators, such as
razor wire, water cannons, acoustic
devices, and propeller arrestors and
entanglers that mostly consist of
Philadelphia wire manufacturing
company Edward J. Darby & Sons
is offering Piratefence, a portable
razor-wire system comprising units
that are 6 feet wide and 10 feet long
that roll up like a rug when stored
and unfold like window blinds over
the side of a ship to prevent unauthorized boarding. The
snap-together units also can be electrified.
“Razor wire alone is not what you should rely on, as
it should part of a multilayered defense system, including also some active system,” Annati said.
It may only delay the pirates, he said, not stop them.
“Even an hour may not be soon enough [for help to
arrive], as some ships have been captured just 12 minutes after sending a distress call,” Annati said.
Many vessels now sail through pirate-infested waters
carrying privately contracted armed security personnel.
While that can raise issues with the ship’s flag state, the
coastal states through which it passes and the port state
where the vessel calls — as all may have different laws
regarding weapons on merchant ships — one statistic is
clear: no ship carrying armed security guards has successfully been taken.
“The number of armed contractors is skyrocketing
as more and more ship owners understand the navies
just can’t provide security everywhere and every time
in such a vast area,” Annati said.
“The most successful shipboard protective measures
continue to be the use of armed security details,” said
A report from the IMO on piracy
that was released in conjunction with
World Maritime Day 2011, observed
by the IMO on Sept. 29, said that
“private armed guards do not repre-
sent a long-term solution. Rather,
their use actually signals a failure on
the part of the international commu-
nity to ensure the security of mar-
itime trade upon which the world
depends. The use of private guards
does not mean that military forces are
no longer required. They are needed
more than ever and should be greatly
increased in number.”
According to John Burnett, a
maritime security expert and
author of “Dangerous Waters:
Modern Piracy and Terror on the
High Seas,” anything that shows
pirates a vessel has a defense and is
aware of the danger they present is
more effective than nothing at all.
But, he said, there is no foolproof
passive defensive object.
“Any pirate who wants to take
down a ship will figure out a way to
do so. To date, only BMP and
armed guards aboard have proven
100 percent effective,” Burnett said.
For ships without self-defense measures, citadels —
impenetrable areas within the ship — can provide a sanctuary for the crew to go if they are attacked and await
assistance from the military or other authorities.
However, for the military to engage a hijacked ship
that has a citadel, Angelo said the entire crew onboard
must be inside it and have long-range communications
with the military. The propulsion system also must be
Of the 27 reported incidents where crews used
citadels, only three were unsuccessful in protecting
them, and they were aboard ships that did not have
communications with the military.
“We’re not advocating citadels,” Angelo said. “But
some of our members use them, so we want to make
sure they know how.”
Angelo said his organization and others like it are
trying to help their members protect themselves, and
work closely with the authorities.
“Eradicating piracy is a joint effort between industry
and governments,” he said. “However, law and order on
the high seas are the responsibilities of the governments.”
“In order to stop piracy completely, a stable political
environment is required in Somalia,” Hearn said. ;
A marine from the Uganda People’s
Defense Force descends from the
guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B.
Roberts to a rigid-hull inflatable boat
Oct. 26 in the Indian Ocean during
boarding operations training as part of
Exercise Cutlass Express, a maritime
domain awareness exercise sponsored
by U.S. Africa Command that focuses
on addressing piracy through information sharing and coordinated operations among international navies.