Dealing With Maritime Piracy

What to do if you see a pirate

While piracy seems like something that should've been left in a previous century that isn't the case. The actual odds of piracy happening to you fluctuates quite heavily depending on the waters that you are sailing, but it can happen anywhere and anytime. Much like any other crimes it only takes the combination of opportunity, means, and motive.

Where are these piracy hot spots located, and what should you do if you find yourself under the threat of pirates? Dealing with maritime piracy isn't an easy thing to experience, but you can certainly come out of it safely when your head is in the right place and you continue acting calm and rational.

Ocean Piracy Hot Spots

As I stated, the truth is that piracy can happen anywhere, but there are certain places where it happens with a lot more frequency than others. Generally, these are poorer sections of the world where people might not have a lot to lose, and quite a bit to gain from a successful bit of piracy.

The Indian Ocean, East Africa, the Far East, South America, and the Caribbean. Somalian pirates are extremely prolific in the Indian Ocean and Strait of Malacca, but they certainly aren't the only pirates out there. I had a very scary run-in while traveling through the Caribbean which I'll share one of these days if it is requested.

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Means and Motives

The average modern-day pirate will undoubtedly outgun almost every sailor on the water. They came prepared for a fight. These pirates might have night-vision goggles, AK47s, M60s, rocket launchers, or any other conceivable form of weaponry. These pirates and their weapons will be brought on an unprepared sailor quickly with the aid of GPS navigation devices and powerful motorboats. Some speedboats even have mounted mortars that can decimate a target from 5 kilometers away.

Of course, destruction isn't the main goal for most pirates. It just happens to be a byproduct of attaining money by any means necessary. While some pirate crews simply rob and move on with a few goods, they seem to be in the minority. The really big money comes from ransoming ships and crew members. This can be a larger risk than a simple smash and grab but the payouts are multiple times larger.

Who Is Targeted?

Smaller pirate crews will tend to focus on vessels they can manage to subdue with just the men and equipment that they have on board, but there are definitely crews that will band together in order to hunt a larger score. This means that any vessel on the water is a potential target. Large and small cargo vessels, cruise ships, and private yachts all offer different risks and rewards but there is always a pirate that is willing to take on the challenge given the right time, place, and circumstances.

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Deterring Maritime Pirates

Pirates are looking for low-hanging fruit. While a payday is the end goal, no sane person will risk injury or death to get it. You will be outgunned, and fighting back can lead to injury of death of your own crew. The best tactics to use against maritime piracy are defensive rather than offensive. As soon as you realize the pirates are looking to board, send out communications that you require assistance from the Coast Guard. They might be hours away, so you'll need to keep them from boarding in the meantime.

One of the most effective and simple ways to prevent boarding is to maintain a speed of at least 18 knots. There isn't a single instance of pirates boarding a ship at or above this speed. Maritime pirates might open fire on the bridge in order to bring the vessel to a stop, and these are the cases where bulletproof glass can really pay dividends. Speed is obviously a great ally so it probably goes without saying that mooring in waters known for piracy is a very bad idea.

There are a plethora of non-lethal weapons that can be used to deter an attack from maritime pirates. Electric fences, water cannons, Molotov cocktails, laser and sound-based weaponry are all extremely effective. Electric tasers are an absolute last resort. Check out some of these very cool non-lethal anti-piracy weapons for a look at some of the tech they're up against.

If you're lacking some of these anti-piracy weapons you might need to improvise a little bit. Worst case scenario is giving a close-range blast with a marine air horn to serve as some impromptu sound-based weaponry. While a boat hose might not seem extremely useful, you might be able to make the pirates take on enough water to slow them somewhat. Overall, if they're close enough to use either of these improvised weapons you're in some big trouble and need to keep speeds up to prevent boarding.

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Situational Crime Prevention

One of the best ways to deter pirates is situational crime prevention (abbreviated as SCP). The less of a target you seem to be, the less of a target you'll become. SCP consists of three main principles. First, directing crime control measures at highly specific forms of crime, in this case, maritime piracy. Second, managing, designing, or manipulating the immediate environment in a systematic and permanent way.

Lastly, increasing the perceived risk or effort to commit a crime, or reducing the rewards or removing the excuses for committing a crime. Increasing the effort to commit the crime, increasing risk to the pirates, reducing potential rewards, and removing any excuses for committing the crime have been proven effective against all forms of crime including maritime piracy.