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Piracy: a strategy against the worst cases

By doina — last modified May 11, 2008 06:05 PM

Published: 2008-05-11 18:05:23
Topics: Piracy

I read with attention the comments concerning piracy and weapons on board. I write you about this with the perspective of a former security agent, a former body guard, a Swiss military sniper trained in the tank troops and a sailor. In other words I am familiar with ships, violence and weapons ranging from a revolver to 155 mm gun.

First two cases must be differentiated as to the danger of the situation: an attack in a port or close to the coast and an attack on open sea. The first case is a classical robbery that could happen to you at home. A good alarm with a motion sensor on the deck is a must. The motion sensor must be placed correctly in order to avoid false alarms. For the rest see plan B below.

An attack on open sea is extremely dangerous. If the pirates throw you over board you are dead flat! It also raises a question: how could they know you are around? The answer is easy: they use the right technology to detect you: radars, frequency scanners or simply binoculars.

In order to hide your ship you should do (at least) the following:

  • Shutdown all electronic devices: mobile phones of any kinds, radar, laptops, GPS, blackberries and so on. All these devices may emit and can be detected easily.
  • Do not accept any transmission (weather reports, faxes and similar). During transmissions the receiving device acknowledges the transmission and can be detected.
  • Set the VHS on channel 16 and only broadcast in case of emergency.
  • Remove any metal piece from the mast that is not necessary. You are not sailing in the Channel. You do not need to appear on all radars in the area!
  • Turn off all lights; really all lights interior and exterior (get rid of the fuse! No joke!). Use the light of the moon or red light for some seconds if you really need some. Never use a white light. It can be seen miles around.
  • Use the engine as little as possible. Keep it running at low rpms as the military do with the tanks during the night. This will make the noise difficult to locate. Sound propagates very well in the water and is very easy to locate.
  • On a sailboat compute your course properly, set up your sails to be able to cope with a small wind change. Do not operate and keep the winches silent. Do not use the engine.

No emissions, no light, no noise equals no see. This is 99% of your security. If the last percent occurs, start with the idea pirates get everything they want. There is one device with which nobody is able to talk: an AK 47. They are plenty of them around. It costs a little as 20 USD in the former Yugoslavia and shoots 600 7.62mm bullets a minute. So believe me pirates get everything they want.

You can improve your security with an annex. Set it up as a rescue island with at least (good) paddles, water, food and a portable VHF. Pull your annex behind the ship with a long rope (10-20m). In most cases the pirates get on board from the rear. The long rope and the annex jumping in the waves will be a problem. It may even stop them. In addition the annex is your plan B. Do not use a rescue device for plan B. They are conceived to remain on the spot and you may need to go away quickly.

On the open sea you need a plan B because they may throw you over board. Try to negotiate first. You and the crew want to leave the ship and go away with the annex. If you feel the pirates will kill you, you jump over board! You have more chance in the water than in front of an AK 47. A knife to cut the rope to the annex is your plan B. So if things go bad jump over board, swim to the annex, cut the rope and paddle away.

So what about personal protection? If you are attacked by pirates, you are exactly in the same situation as a security officer at the door of your favourite club. But it is more dangerous. The very first rule is never show a firearm. You are not making a western but trying to save your life! So you do never show a firearm. Pull it and shoot your opponent dead.

Are you trained for this? Certainly not! Accordingly your chances to kill your opponent are exactly zero. Zero means he will shoot back and you are a dead buddy. RIP. This simple fact resumes to: no firearms on board under no circumstances. If you are not convinced add: the stress, unstable floor, kids crying and so on. Are you still sure you will hit your opponent? Definitely not! FIREARMS ON BOARD IS THE WRONG OPTION!

So what? Use a self-defence spray! The ones I am talking about are not available in the supermarket but in a specialized shops. You may even need a license to purchase it. Request at least CS spray with a range of about 10 meters. CS gas is very efficient and most of the shootings take place under 10 meters. The main difference between the spray and a firearm is it can cope with a dozen of opponents and you do not need to be precise. Just spray around.

There are two types of sprays. One is CS gas based and the other is pepper based. You may read the pepper based spray is more efficient. This is true. I however recommend the CS gas based spray because it will be effective even if you do not touch the eyes. In addition a sailor will generally have to cope with several opponents. The CS spray will be more effective in this case. If sprayed in the ship, the CS spray make it unusable at least for a couple of hours. This will not be the case of a pepper spray.

For coastal defense the pepper spray is however more efficient, because there may be only one or two opponents involved and you do not have to defend the ship.

Spray diffuse the substance in two ways: a jet which will range up to 10 m. and a smog which will range only 2-4 m. There no one solution as to the diffusion. To save the ship you are definitely better off with a smog of CS gas. For personal protection you are better off with a jet of pepper. Even if the CS spray is not as efficient as the pepper spray a CS spray with jet diffusion is most probably the best option because the active component is held is an aggressive solvent which will partially simulate a smog effect. Training as to the usage of the spray, experience as to its effectiveness are a must.

Now that you have your expensive spray, let’s refine plan B. If it gets bad save the crew first! They should jump over board and swim to the annex. During this time use your spray. I mean empty it straight in the face of the opponents. If you have time put a good lot in the interior of the ship. The best is to spray everywhere just like you had become mad. Jump over board, cut the rope of the annex, swim and paddle for your life. The portable VHF will help for the rest.

So what is going on on your superb yacht that is not fully paid? The pirates will not be able to shoot at you because they will be crying for a nurse with CS gas in their eyes. As they will try to enter into the boat it will even get worse. Remember? You emptied the spray in it! There is hell on board believe me. With just a little luck they will leave your boat and go cry at home. Do not speculate on this one, just go away. If the police or the military help you, you may even get your ship back. Open everything prior to enter the ship. CS gas is really bad.

If you are close to the coast, the alarm and the spray will definitely do the job. The last time I used my one I emptied a night club with 50 persons involved in a fight. The police was waiting at the door with the bus. The club had to close for a week! CS gas is bad!

Last but not least: This type of preparation must be done with military discipline. Double check everything: devices to shut down, batteries for the portable VHF and so on. Make a check list and check EVERY POINT OF IT. Remember: it is not a joke, it is your life.

Klaus Müller

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