The impact of Piracy is great, and cannot be denied; the economic cost is incredibly high, but the damage done to human life is incalculable. It is very difficult to ascertain the specific costs of Piracy, but fortunately there are a number of methods available to help combat and deter Piracy. This comes as Piracy continues to thrive, and attacks and kidnappings see a marked rise. It is understandable therefore why crews and vessels continue to invest heavily in anti-Piracy measures. There are many options available that range from the cheap to the expensive, and all will have varying degrees of success depending on the situation. Below are some examples of anti-Piracy methods available.
Evading Pirates may seem simplistic or ineffective, and yet if a ship can avoid Pirates altogether, they will not be at risk of attack whatsoever. It is certainly a simple and non-combative option, yet it does have its disadvantages. For example, the added cost in time and fuel can make it counter-productive for many, and therefore not a viable solution. More importantly however, studies have shown that Piracy increases in areas with the most shipping. Evasion en masse therefore may only delay Piracy and cause it to shift to other areas. However, for some ships perhaps making one-off journeys, it is an effective option.
Water hoses are the most commonly used anti-piracy weapons, and are certainly one of the simplest and cheapest methods available. Nevertheless, it is often seen as being less effective than other methods. However, by targeting attackers with water hoses crews can make boarding impossible by creating slippery surfaces or literally pushing Pirates from their boats.
Foam is very similar to water hoses in its aim. By coating the surface of a ship in slippery foam, there is no way for Pirates to gain purchase and board. However, there are some concerns over the environmental impact of using foam.
Many ships are hesitant to employ barbed wire, seeing it as a particularly aggressive solution. Even though it is not ‘actively’ combative, like the methods outlined below, it still certainly creates a hostile image, one which many- particularly civilian ships- will find unpalatable. Nevertheless, covering ships in barbed wire is undeniably effective in preventing Pirates from boarding. Barbed wire may also be intimidating to Pirates, as it displays a readiness to attackers that may deter them.
Unlike the above methods, which are usually seen as non-aggressive and non-combative, deploying Armed Guards on a ship is certainly an aggressive method of preventing piracy. Nevertheless, displaying to Pirates a readiness for attack is one of the key considerations in hiring Private Security to protect ships. After all, there is little that signals a preparedness for attack than the presence of Maritime Security Operatives. Indeed, statistics have shown that vessels employing private protection have a far lower rate of boarding than other ships. This goes to show, therefore, that Maritime Security is not necessarily combative, and can serve as more of a deterrent. However, these services can be costly, particularly when considering the equipment they need, which stretches from weapons to bullet proof vests. Similarly, they may be an unwelcome sight on civilian crafts.
Finally, there are the seemingly fantastical weapons that have nonetheless proven to be very useful in Maritime environments. By harnessing sounds far above the human threshold these ‘Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD)’ can incapacitate attackers with focused sounds. These weapons are remarkably accessible and have proven effective in stopping Pirates. Other more common methods include rubber bullets and even non-lethal explosives.
The above methods are just some of many that can be employed in combating Piracy. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and may not be suitable for all crafts or situations. However, there are myriad available to help keep crews safe, and using methods in tandem with diligence and awareness can help reduce the cost of a Pirate attack, and keep vessels and their crews safe.