Armed Deterrence

Somali Pirates apparently don’t learn easily. They attacked the Maersk Alabama again, but this time things were different:

An on-board security team repelled the attack by using evasive maneuvers, small-arms fire and a Long Range Acoustic Device, which can beam earsplitting alarm tones, the fleet said.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the Maersk Alabama had followed the maritime industry’s “best practices” in having a security team on board.

“This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take proactive action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they’re in high-risk areas,” Gortney said in a statement.

However, Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the international maritime community was still “solidly against” armed guards aboard vessels at sea, but that American ships have taken a different line than the rest of the international community.

The international maritime community can scoff at the idea all they want, but it worked. I’ve seen those high-tech noisemakers on the show Whale Wars, and they didn’t seem to be remarkably effective, so I’m going to guess that it was evasive maneuvers and small arms fire that won the day here.

9 thoughts on “Armed Deterrence”

  1. But can the security forces on the ships call in an air strike from our guys in the air??

    Kablooie on a dinghy!!!!

  2. I’m curious to know specifically what firearms were used by the Maersk Alabama’s on-board security team. If it were up to me, there would be at least one .50 BMG rifle with a telescopic sight in that team’s arsenal and at least one qualified sniper on the security team armed with that rifle. That’s how those Somali pirates were dealt with by the US Navy SEAL’s the last time they got involved with the Maersk Alabama, and I think that’s how they should be dealt with from now on. When these Somali pirates start seeing their fellow pirates getting blasted from great distances by trained snipers, they are highly likely going to consider quitting the pirate occupation altogether.

    Forget what that British “piracy expert” says also. What I find to be ironic about him even being mentioned in this context above is that there are still a British couple being held for ransom by other Somali pirates, and his anti-gun opinions obviously have not achieved anything to secure their safe return home yet.

  3. Ronnie,

    Trained snipers who can effectively use a .50 cal on a moving vehicle at sea are expensive and I’d think largely unnecessary.

    Think about the terrain of a typical freighter; the defenders have the high ground, the advantage of mass, and a much more stable platform. The attackers have the advantage of picking the time of the engagement.

    I’d say that priority #1 is avoiding surprise. If the crew can act before the pirates get onboard, they can probable adequately defend themselves with a hail of .22! Well, not a .22, but certainly a 5.56 or 7.62 NATO firing weapon. I’d give one guy with an M-16 and cover pretty good odds against half a dozen guys at the bottom of a 30′ steel cliff on a pitching small boat.

  4. Seems like the acoustic device is more useful for preventing accidental shootings of bystanders. If your willing to keep moving toward a freighter despite an earsplitting noise, your probably not just a fisherman.

  5. Oh, they’ve been used before with some success (well, running one boat over helped, I’m sure) in a anti-pirate role.

    Of course… a few Bofors mounts would also do the trick.

  6. My guess is they are using shotguns. The great difficulty in arming ships is that the guns have to be legal in the ports you plan on stopping at. Shotguns are legal in most jurisdictions.

  7. The security details on freighters are generally Israelis and not armed with shotguns. It seems that Israel security firms have been offering these services and now American firms are trying to get in the business.

    Shotguns are what private yachts use since they are legal most places. Not what security details use. There was a passenger cruise ship that had an Israeli security team and when they were attacked by pirates, the team did not have time to get their weapons but a passenger used deck chairs to repel boarders.
    The team did try to get their weapons but the attack was too fast. The ship accelerated and out ran the pirates.

    I expect that ships will keep watches and arms nearby as they are learning from mistakes.

    I found it especially interesting that a US surveillance aircraft was watching. P3 Orions are sub hunting and they have the ability to drop depth charges. A bit over kill for pirate small craft.

    Proper pirate hunting ships are not the type of ships that used for naval engagements. Smaller fast ships are need like the old PT boats. Coasties have some proper ships since they hunt drug runners.

    Our Navy does not want to be tied down hunting these pirates but prefer the ships to defend themselves. Our Navy has been pushing that meme.

    International Shipping is still run by liberal gun fearing Europeans. But the Chinese and Koreans I expect will be changing their doctrines also.

    These pirates are often stupid , they have attacked Navy ships and been killed. However the business model of piracy has been good so far and it is the only way for the young males to earn money so it is a good idea for the pirates from their point of view.

    The big problem is that they have lots of young men willing to go into piracy and they can afford losses if they get a freighter and good ransom.

    If all the freighters fought and kept watched then the successful pirate raids would go down and the incentives would turn upside down.

  8. Somehow over the past two centuries we have forgotten how to deal with pirates. You kill them. With cannon if they attack and hang them from a yard-arm if you catch them. If they decline battle on the sea, land Marines to find and kill them.

    The British (former SAS) security teams I’ve read about use shotguns loaded with birdshot. They want to wound and discourage pirates – not kill them.

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