Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P. O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Modern Piracy, Part 5
By Cindy Vallar
The popular opinion is that it is far better for a vessel’s crew to not resist the attackers than to risk an escalation of violence, and this is where the ships become ‘perfect victims.’ This passive attitude can be blamed for the proliferation of vessel attacks worldwide. There are many response options available to a vessel’s master, and playing ‘victim’ should be the final option, not the primary option. (Captain David N. Kellerman, founder of MaritimeSecurity.com, Worldwide Maritime Piracy, June 1999) To merchant seamen, their ship is their home since they live there for several months at a time. When pirates steal wedding bands or private belongings, the crew experiences feelings akin to what we do when our homes are robbed. So what can they do to deter pirates?
“Stopping them BEFORE they board is the key,” says Captain Kellerman. “This can be done simply by keeping watch and alerting the entire crew when attackers are spotted. This has proven to be a good deterrent to attack. Take evasive steering action, use high pressure water hoses, shine bright searchlights at approaching attack vessels [at night], alert all crew, broadcast attack via radio. At anchor make the boat look occupied. Keep a night watch. Use ultrasonic sensors to warn of approaching boats if possible. Always watch your stern when underway. Use RADAR to track approaching craft. Keep hatches and doors secure if possible. Keep a 360 degree watch at all times.” When pirate-infested waters can’t be avoided, ships should remain underway until the last possible moment. Wagging the tail (moving the stern back and forth) is also recommended. While arming crew is a possibility, both seamen and organizations like the IMB frown on this option. Aside from the multinationality of crews and the need for firearms training, there could be legal and diplomatic repercussions if weapons are used.
In-depth training is often not something shipowners provide to their crews, so where can merchant seamen and pleasure boaters acquire anti-piracy training? Maritime security firms provide such training. Captain Kellerman suggests that you investigate a prospective trainer before signing up to take a course. Check for “professional licensing, principal backgrounds, company history. For instance, my company [Special Ops Associates] has recovered 400+ missing or stolen vessels from 11 countries. We do this as a business, not a hobby. Unfortunately many out there see this field as a romantic way to make a living. They don’t last long when they see that it is simply a different kind of job where the only reward is a paycheck and personal satisfaction.” Captain Kellerman’s credentials back up what he says. He’s a U.S. Coast Guard Captain and a veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces; is certified as a Special Operations Jumpmaster, a police firearms instructor, a personal protection instructor, a private investigator, a rescue diver, and a master diver; and is the author of Marine Security Management and Piracy Countermeasures.
Once pirates board, though, whether the crew continues to resist must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Often times, resistance will escalate the violence, yet injury or death does occur when the crew doesn’t resist. After the attack, it should be reported to law enforcement agencies, the shipowner, and the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre. Established in 1992 and located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Piracy Reporting Centre is manned round-the-clock and publishes piracy warnings around the world. They collate information on attacks, alert authorities, locate missing vessels, assist victims of piracy, and help bring pirates to justice. In two recent cases—the Global Mars and the Alondra Rainbow—they have been instrumental in the fight against piracy.
What are governments and commercial enterprises doing to curtail piracy? One recent innovation available to shipowners is SHIPLOC, a satellite tracking system. Tiny transmitters are concealed aboard vessels so owners can monitor their ships’ exact locations via the Internet. ASAM also allows ships to report details of pirate attacks via satellite connections. There is also a new lifevest on the market. The Lorica Armoured Lifevest is not only buoyant, but also protects against knife and bullet attacks. Brazil has established special anti-piracy squads. Shipping companies in the Philippines conduct training exercises and the Navy recently purchased 30 new patrol craft to aid in the fight against piracy. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy trains their midshipmen to thwart piracy using high-tech simulation.
Perhaps governments should look to the past when searching for ways to suppress piracy. Historically, piracy was suppressed by attacking the land bases of pirates. Once the leaders of pirate communities realised that acts of piracy would be met with cannons, they quickly diverted their energies into other moneymaking channels. (Captain Jayant Abhyankar, Deputy Director of ICC International Maritime Bureau, An Overview of Piracy Problems, 1999) Even today, pirates require some base from which to operate. The land is where they hide and live when not at sea, and it is also where those who fence pirate plunder reside. In days of yore, Port Royal and Madagascar were two such havens. The problem is that pirates know that their land bases are secure from attack. In some cases it has even been thought that pirates have enjoyed the protection of powerful individuals who have clandestine official support from regional governments. (Captain Jayant Abhyankar) Yet the land is also the pirates’ weakest point, the place where they are most vulnerable. It is where law enforcement has the best chance to succeed in catching them. At the present time, piracy does not loom too large on the law enforcement horizon but literally is a problem of ‘those that pass in the night.’ It is hoped that this parochial attitude alters and countries co-operate to rid their seas of this menace. (Captain Jayant Abhyankar)
© 2000 Cindy Vallar
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