Fortunately, there are tools and techniques for avoiding, preventing and surviving pirate attacks. A satellite system called ShipLoc allows shipping companies to monitor the location of their ships. This can be particularly useful if pirates hijack or steal a ship. Companies can also install non-lethal electrical fences around a ship's perimeter, as long as that ship does not carry flammable cargo. In addition, International Maritime Organization regulations require ships to be able to send distress signals and warnings covertly in case of pirate attack.
To prevent pirate attacks, crews should:
- Avoid discussing a ship's route or cargo while in port
- Keep constant watch in areas prone to piracy
- Avoid bottlenecks in shipping lanes
- Search the ship before leaving port to make sure no one is on board without authorization
The best defense against a pirate attack is evasion -- it's easier to keep pirates from boarding than to force them to leave. Upon detecting the approach of pirates, a crew should:
- Call for help and warn other ships in the area
- Take evasive action and attempt to out-maneuver the attackers
- Sound the alarm, use the ship's lights to illuminate the vessel, and do anything else to make the pirates aware that they have lost the element of surprise
If the pirates approach the ship, the crew should first try to throw off any grappling hooks or poles before the pirates can board. Crew can also use the ship's fire hoses to deter pirates or try to push them overboard. However, experts discourage crew members from carrying firearms, since the presence of weapons can encourage attackers to respond with violence.
Once the pirates board the ship, the crew's first priority is to ensure their own safety. The crew should also try to stay in control of the craft and encourage the pirates to depart. You can read more about recommendations for surviving a pirate attack on the International Maritime Organization's safety pages.
Check out the links below to learn more about pirates, piracy and related topics.
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- Butler, Lindley S. "Pirates, Privateers and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast." The University of North Carolina Press. 2000.
- Cordingly, David. "Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates." Random House. 1995.
- International Maritime Bureau. "IMB Piracy Report, First Quarter 2006." March 31, 2006.
- International Maritime Bureau. "Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships - Annual Report - January 1-December 31 2005." January 31, 2006.
- International Maritime Organization. "Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships: Recommendations to Governments for Preventing and Suppressing Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships." June 16, 1999
- International Maritime Organization. "Measures to Enhance Maritime Security." June 10, 2003.
- International Maritime Organization. "Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships." May 29, 2002.
- International Maritime Organization. "Reports on Acts of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships." May 5, 2006.
- International Maritime Organization. "Reports on Acts of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships: Annual Report - 2005." March 22, 2006.
- Johnson, Derek and Erika Pladdet. "An Overview of Current Concerns in Piracy Studies and New Directions for Research." Position Paper for the Piracy Panels and Roundtable at the conference: People and the Sea II: Conflicts, Threats and Opportunities. International Institute for Asian Studies and the Centre for Maritime Research. Amsterdam. August 1, 2003
- Konstam, Angus. "The History of Pirates." The Lyons Press, 1999.