18 Anti-Piracy Weapons for Ships to Fight Pirates

In April 2009, when Israeli based cargo ship MV Africa Star was attacked by nine pirates, the ship’s crew used  coils of barbed wire to prevent pirates from climbing the ship. A major piracy attempt was thus avoided using non-lethal anti-piracy method, a technique used to protect ships in piracy affected areas.

Anti-piracy technology has come a long way since then, with several powerful non-lethal weapons introduced on ships to prevent piracy attacks.

Merchant ships now plying in high piracy affected areas such as Gulf of Aden (GOA) carry Armed Guards along with a series of non-lethal weaponry to thwart any kind of piracy attempt.

Mentioned herein is a list of non-lethal anti-piracy weapons that are used or can be used to fight piracy at high seas.

1. Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)

Long range acoustic device is a non-lethal anti-piracy device which uses pain inducing sound beam to drive away the pirates. The sonic weapon produces high-pitched noise that is higher than the tolerance level of an average human being. LRAD has been used on a few cargo and cruise ships until now.

Long Range Acoustic Device

2. Anti-Piracy Laser Device

The anti-piracy laser device uses a non-lethal laser beam to provide a visual warning to pirates and distract them temporarily. The laser device can be used during both day and night and can be easily operated by the ship’s crew.

Anti-Piracy Laser Device

Learn about BAE’s anti-piracy laser system  and LSD 100 laser system here.

3. Water Cannon

Water cannon is another non-lethal weapon which is extensively used on merchant’s vessels. As an anti-piracy method, the device delivers a powerful and impenetrable stream of water that blows away pirates trying to board the ship. The cannon can also quickly fill the pirates’ boats to slow them down and hinder their manoeuvrability.

Water Cannon

Most of the water cannon anti-piracy systems can be remotely controlled from a safe position on ships.

4. Electric Secure Fence

Electric fence non-lethal system consists of an electric fence which surrounds the ship and prevents pirates from climbing. The system is a collapsible fence which can be folded and kept safe when not in use.

Electric Secure Fence


Secure Ship is another type of electric fence system which can be effectively used to prevent pirates from climbing ships.

5. Nets – Boat Traps

Boat trap is a type of ballistic net which can be used to stop pirates’ boats when they come near to a merchant ship. When in water, the net ensnares the propellers of the boats which disable the vessel, preventing it from moving forward.

Nets – Boat Traps

6. Slippery Foam – Mobile Denial System

Slippery foam or Anti-traction material is a non-lethal substance which can be used to make the deck or sides of a ship slippery to avoid pirates from climbing it. The highly viscous substance substantially reduces traction of anything that comes in contact with it, making it difficult to walk or stand.

7. Foul Smelling liquid – Liquid Deterrent System ( or using Stun Gun)

An anti-piracy technology by the International Maritime Security Network of US involves showering approaching pirates with slick, foul-smelling green liquid, which stinks and burns. The burning sensation and the nasty stink forces pirates to jump into the water, thus stopping a possible pirate attack.

8. Anti boarding device – Razor Wire Canister

Anti-boarding device is an anti-piracy method which uses canisters with sharp razor wires to prevent pirates from boarding the ship. The wires act as a barrier between the pirates and the ship, which thwarts forward movement of pirates.

Anti boarding device – Razor Wire Canister

9. Compressed Air  – Ship Bourne Shore Launcher

The Ship Bourne Shore Launcher is a product of a UK based company. The Buccaneer Ship Bourne Shore Launcher is a cannon shaped device which uses compressed air to fire a variety of projectiles. The power and lethality of the projectiles used can vary according to the distance of the pirates from the ship.

Compressed Air - Ship Bourne Shore Launcher

10. P Trap Anti Piracy

P-trap concept is a non-lethal system which helps prevent pirates from boarding ships. The system carries thin lines which float at the water level around the sides of the vessel. When pirate skiffs/boats come in contact with the lines, the later gets entangled with the engine and disable the vessel.

P Trap Anti Piracy

11. Anti Piracy Curtain

Designed by a division of Japan’s NYK group along with hose manufacturer Yokoi, the anti-piracy curtain is a unique method to keep pirates from climbing the ships.

The system consists of a series of hoses which are dangled on the port and starboard sides of the vessel. Seawater is passed through the nozzles at a force of 0.2 MegaPascal, which makes the hoses go in unpredictable whirling motion, generating enough force to seriously hurt anyone who gets in the way.

Anti Piracy Curtain

12. Non-lethal / Stun Grenade

Stun grenade or flash grenade is a non-lethal anti-piracy device which produces a blinding flash of light and loud noise.  Stun grenades are used to temporary disorient pirates senses without causing any kind of permanent injury.

Stun Grenade

13. Dazzle Gun

Dazzle gun is a type of laser weapon which uses green light to disorient and temporarily blind the pirates. The concentrated blast of green light can be used during both day and night.

Dazzle Gun

14. Rubber Ball Grenade

Rubber ball grenade as a non-lethal weapon sprays rubber bullets on detonation. The anti-piracy grenade also produces light and sound which can be used to deter pirates from coming towards the ship.

Rubber Ball Grenade

15. Active Denial System – Pain Ray (Electromagnetic wave)

Officially known as the Active Denial System (ADS), the Pain Ray is a non-lethal weapon which transmits a narrow beam of electromagnetic energy to heat the skin without causing permanent damage. The wave penetrates beneath the skin which causes an unbearable burning sensation, forcing pirates to run away or jump overboard.

active denial system

16. Anti-Piracy Fire Hoses 

Ship’s fire hoses or special Anti-piracy fire hoses are often used to fight pirates trying to board the ships. These high-pressure water hoses are extremely powerful and effective to fight pirates. Special anti-piracy fire hoses also come with semi-automatic and remote control system.

Anti-Piracy Fire Hoses

17. Molotov Cocktail 

Technically not a hi-tech anti-piracy weapon, Molotov cocktail has been used by a crew of a few merchant ships which were not provided with anti-piracy weapons or armed guards.  Molotov cocktail can be made on ships using empty glass bottles, a flammable substance such as gasoline, and source of ignition such as burning cloth wick. It can be thrown on an approaching pirate boat to set it ablaze and disturb their manoeuvrability.

18. Tasers – Electric Shock

If pirates do get on board ships, crew and ship’s cargo can be protected using tasers – a non-lethal weapon which delivers an electric shock that temporarily causes the pirates to lose neuromuscular control. The device can definitely be used as the last resort to protect the ship’s crew from pirates


This is not an exhaustive list of anti-piracy weapons which are or have been used against pirates at high seas. In fact, many of them have not yet been used or implemented on ships. However, if the situation demands, they can potentially be used as non-lethal weapons to keep pirates away from merchant vessels.

Do you know any other successful anti-piracy weapon for maritime piracy?

You may also like to read –

Image Credits

solarnavigator, ggpht, argotrade, maritimejournal, motorship, theblaze, wikipedia, blogspot, quantico

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About Author

Raunek Kantharia is a marine engineer turned maritime writer and entrepreneur. After a brief stint at the sea, he founded Marine Insight in 2010. Apart from managing Marine Insight, he also writes for a number of maritime magazines and websites.

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  1. Some of the techniques shown here are a little more than ridiculous. Why carry non lethal devices when encountering pirates. That is like taking a ‘knife to a gun fight’.

  2. These weapons are just a waste of time and money. If pirates do not hesitate to injure or kill the crew, then why not hesitate to injure and kill the pirates? Pirates will quickly lose interest in hijacking.

  3. I think I agree with the rest of the comments. Just get out the big guns and forget spraying them down with a hose. If they won’t hesitate to kill them, then at least come prepared.

  4. You guys leaving reply’s about how ineffective these weapons are have obviously never left the comfort of your western country. Your “Big guns” will get you thrown in prison, or denied access in MANY of the developing nations that need supplies delivered by Sea Vessel. I personally think that at least a few of these weapons are genius.

  5. We just recently watched the movie “Captain Phillips” I watched. the water cannon fail I saw how easy the pirates got on board. If each of the crew had something as simple as a 1911A They would have not gotten on board. A few M4’s or MP5’s would have been much better.
    Why in God’s name would they sail in pirated infested water without having at least a few firearms on board.Remember the best defense against a bad guy with a gun (which the pirates had.) Is a good guy with a gun,

  6. P.S.
    The X26 TAZER is great but less than 100 % reliable. I have one on the left side of my belt as I write this. On the right side of my belt I have a Glock 37 in .45GAP And yes I am a cop.

  7. Marine Armor Systems is an innovative and passive vessel protection system based on ballistic blinds, protecting the vessel or rig against pirate attacks and other potential threats such as armed robbery, terrorism and acts of sabotage

  8. Very well written article, i have faced piracy attacks and we were hijacked for 6 days in African waters, above points are valid but i would like to add some.

    1. When entering High risk areas, Your AIS should be switched off as pirates get basic info through their AIS fitted on mother ships.(One of the pirates told me that they got info from AIS) Keep your LRIT on.

    2. If pirates are near and trying to board, do not resist and surrender.There is no point fighting with them as they are normally on drugs.

    3. Your Citadel should have enough water,food, first aid for at least 48hrs. Communication system of citadel should be checked (Sat phone and VHF should be installed)

    Rest Like many people have already suggested. Give us training on weapons(only volunteers), we dont need security guards. We need weapons(kept in masters custody). Once pirates realize that most of the ship are alert and carrying weapons they will find another job.


  9. yess i m totally agrer to the rest of the comments non lethal weaponss.. wastage of time,money… and some times livessss….. just give me mp5 or Ak47 … and only me is enough for the bad guysss.. the piratesss

  10. All is non lethal , why ? they are using rpg non lethal when they aim the bridge before boarding ? better ” kill them all ”

  11. Hi I worked at sea as Bosun 38 years. Thanks god never had incident like pirates, of course many stovais we abail tu manage the situation. Also Barbara port went aut & bough provision & stores. The people ther nice and cool . Few organisations spiling there cuntry reputation . I pray god give them good education.

  12. Ofcourse, weapons such as guns and explosive grenades are prohibited onboard. Your ship will be detained once those weapons are found that’s why “we” seafarers only can use those kind of weapons. FYI, our shipping company only provides razor wires. We only use dummies, razor wire and fire hoses. Or alternatively hire a pirate guard.

  13. You can not enter many countries with an armed military on your ship. the solution is you have armed military ships that maintain in International waters. If a large insurance consortium was to maintain a armed soldiers of shore, they could arm a ship in international waters and do helicopter removal of the armoury, so as to never break national laws

  14. Why spray water only?
    Why not spray them with a liquid which can stick on them and detected in the day AND dark?
    or maybe the liquid contains extremely fiery curry solution?
    The LRAD seems to be a brilliant idea – give them a very stinging sensation!

  15. We read with keen interest of the anti pirates devices which your esteemed organisation markets and wish to invite you to explore the possibility of nigeria market given the incessant maritime and sea piracy challenges in the Niger Delta region.
    We are in position to introduce and get business in the maritime industry here and the agencies of government to patronise this devices.

    please endeavour to contact us with details and materials for our study and submission subject to your consent to do this business with the undersigned who is our resource person in this matter.

    Thank you.
    Bennett Simon Ndukwe
    Stoobs Limited
    68 Railway Compound, Bundu Port Harcourt, Nigeria
    Tel. +234 8189721719

  16. The bottom line is most of the pirates do this because they understand that the likelihood of facing lethal resistance is low and the rewards are huge. A few M-4’s in a locker under the Captain’s or Masters control and a few weeks training for a few qualified deck crew would do nicely. Nobody should have to face armed murderers with water hoses or other absurdities listed here. Many of these pirates have grenades and other explosives that will do serious damage unless they are held off and engaged at range. It’s too late when your attackers are alongside and threaten the ship with a few blocks of semtex. For those jurisdictions that want to make a fuss, that would stop in a hurry if the shipping companies simply refused to enter ports along shipping lanes with heavy pirate activity

  17. It would be better if the countries that this ships passes through have an agreement with each other (to allow weapons on board) to avoid breaking of laws. Because it would be inappropriate for you to be fighting a beast with a stick. They are reading this and they know you can’t harm them but they can. From captain to the least post on board should be trained on how to use guns and other lethal weapons and they should be allowed to use them on pirates! Or else piracy will continue, kidnapping and killing of sailors also. While there international law will be there and can’t found out the culprit.

  18. This is absolutely stunning that these are the only options to deter men that are clearly willing to kill those onboard the ship you want to defend. There must be some way to allow international shipping with a SMALL amount of defensive LETHAL firepower.

  19. I think the shipbourne launcher could be a good idea. They’ve been increasing the different kinds of rounds it can use. Including air burst rubber ball grenades, I think a good air burst munition for this sort of thing would be in the idea of a Molotov cocktail. Perhaps a burst munition that would spread A flammable substance across the boat crew that could be lit by a flare from the same Cannon. Putting a Napalm like substance in a skip will surely push the crew out of the skin very quickly. Make sure to have plenty of ammo is hitting a Target moving on the water while you’re moving on the water can be very very difficult. I’ve also seen launchers that could be fitted to fire paintballs filled with teargas like gel. Not sure how effective it would be but I’ve been CS gassed before and that’s a really really unpleasant. Love the idea of the antipersonnel radar weapon hands down one of the best things you can do to make someone feel like they’re on fire is a sure-fire way no pun intended to stop someone. I’ve seen these weapons demonstrated in the US and they are devastating. Former Special Forces soldiers were brought to their knees in seconds.

  20. The best solution is to smother the pirates with love. Pirates are people too. Invite them on board for tea and scones. Invite them to come and visit you at home, maybe for thanksgiving. Give them a small gift for coming and watch their little faces light up with sheer joy. Remember, treat them as you would want to be treated. Then let ’em have it with a long burst fro an M16. Make sure you wish them a Merry Christmas !

  21. These non-lethal weapons may seam more humane, but they are not.

    Pirates have no problem killing innocent people. Using these weapons puts the life of the next crew that passes these waters in danger. It is morally superior to remove the threat to innocent people than to protect the lives of pirates who have no problem killing innocent people.

    Also, increasing the chance of death for pirates will deter future pirates more than simply making it more difficult for the imminent attack to take place.

  22. Having just sailed for over a week through the pirate areas off Yemen and Somalia, what are we doing to stop them? Absolutely nothing. Machine guns, plus other weapons which are lethal at a distance, are the only things which will work. Shoot all of them, then send the bodies back to Somalia in the vessel they arrived in. The trouble is, there’s now a big industry of protecting vessels from piracy. Stuff them, and send in a few U boats while we’re at it. A bunch of savages is holding the world’s shipping to ransom.

  23. All the governments of the world have an army! These armies are armed to the teeth with weapons because that is how you fight violence, terrorism, dictators and criminals!

    They expect us to use jet washers, loud noises and bright lights or hide in a sealed box and wait for rescue that may never happen, against all eyes and teeth, skinny scumbag cowards with machine guns who are looking to kidnap, kill or behead us and destroy our way of lives.

    These cowards still carry on with the fully armed Navy war ships in the vicinity! How ridiculous can it get? They should be blown out of the water in an instant in the name of human rights! Good decent human beings ‘human rights’!

    They can operate freely loaded to the hilt with guns but, if you have a gun on a yacht it is a major hassle?

    There should be a worldwide law to allow yacht owners to possess weapons of their choice locked up on board and no chance of prison for killing a pirate, hijacker or thief that tries to board your vessel.

  24. What is the mindset of creating “non-lethal” methods of thwarting pirate attacks, when the pirate has no qualms about blowing your brains out with a rifle or pistol? The best method is to KILL THEM BEFORE THEY BOARD AND KILL YOU, and so they don’t continue to be a lethal problem for other ships at sea. Why not nail them mercilessly with a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the deck? I just don’t get such a viewpoint that it’s okay to let them kill you, but be a nice guy and not kill them?

  25. I was thinking about a design by where a flame throwing device could be manufactured to be operated manually or from a safe distance by the crew of a large ship. I was going to suggest Molotov cocktails, but it was already there.

  26. In regards to non-lethal weaponry, if Pirates are attempting to board Your large vessel, rest assured They will kill You if told to so fighting fire with fire is only fair. After all, They are the Aggressors.

  27. I’m a retired 30-year naval intelligence professional. I’ve been reading about this piracy situation it seems like forever. My suggestion is to have the U.N. warn the Somalis (and other perpetrators of this practice) to “cease and desist” their piracy practices. When this warning is ignored, as it will be, then the U.N. should stand-up an international anti-piracy taskforce, composed of all countries whose ships pass through piracy-prone areas, with the mission of destroying every boat from the high water mark to 100 NM inland. Draconian you say, Yes!, but an effective, direct action solution to a problem that has been plaguing sea-borne commerce since the beginning of time.

  28. I read theses solutions and they are all a joke. Just kill them. Not so long ago merchant ships were armed and no one thought anything of it. Now in the absurd namby pamby nanny world we live in, no one can defend themselves. Why can’t any vessel transiting the waterways of the world be arm as it sees fit? Why is it a problem when you pull into a port with weapons that are secured, and they want to arrest you? Are they going to help you when you are 30 miles offshore and defenseless? No vessel should go anywhere without a centerfire semiautomatic rifle and a shotgun, at a minimum. This is ridiculous. If you don’t care to go armed, well, then don’t. But don’t require that I cannot defend myself. It’s utterly absurd.

  29. What is missing from the comments is the fact that increasing weapons on the ship could create a mini “arms race”. Pirates will expect more firepower, so they will BRING more firepower. For example, they may start shooting from a distance, launch an RPG, etc., in the same way that an increase in personal firearms in the home INCREASE the danger and risk of death and injury.

  30. the cargo ship is a moving castle for gods sake. How about hot tar, dropping a big cannon ball into their boat with a moveable ramp. I know i wouldn’t want gas poured on me and seeing a dude with a ronson lighter in his hand above me. How hard can it be? Hell built a trebuchet if you must, does no one watch game of thrones?

  31. People are generally motivated in actions by the experiences of others – the modern “western” penchant for leniency and other such ridiculous measures only teaches potential criminals that they can get away with piracy etc…..give up the useless ideas and shoot to kill ALL pirates – every time….how many times does the feeble “west” need to be taught this VERY BASIC lesson…..FFS…….!!!

  32. I’m amazed how these americans think that the whole world is like them. “god, guns and guts”.
    Completely violent misinformed derelicts who are totally ignorant about international laws. Of course. They live in a bubble.
    My dear gringo friends… You can dream about your guns and your cowboy stories, but the fact is, that fire arms will guarantee you a comfy place in jail in any other developed country, the moment your weapons are found.

    Do I think that vessels should be allowed to carry a minimum of lethal “self defense” mechanisms? Yes, of course.
    But unfortunately, the laws say otherwise and your misinformation and ignorance is overwhelmingly infantile.

  33. Shoot first. (2km+ for a .50 mg.) Shoot to kill. And make sure any survivors have no way to get back to land. Word will get around quickly among the pirates….. and the local sharks, too! 😉

  34. Spraying pirates with water?I don’t think you quite understand if these guys manage to get on to your ship what would happen,these are not guys with a three piece suit rather armed with a gun pointed to your head who will not hesitate to pull the trigger and strip the ship for a few dollars, you should be armed to the teeth with machine guns and at least shoot out their vessel to sink it, some of these guys dont play games and don’t care! Spray them with water!??

  35. If shippers were smart they would all quit making deliveries in such areas. Anyone that does deserves what they get. If we stop bringing merchandise they will have to allow guns on board. I love how some guy calls us trigger happy gringos with guns. What are you talking about you racist jerk??? We’re facing murderous killers that won’t hesitate to kill us and take our life ! They also have rocket launchers! Yes having guns is the only solution you (whatever you are) I’ll keep my mouth shut! The fact is why bring a castle full of money and merchendice anywhere that allows you to be killed? Let them starve and see how quick they change their mind. I’ve spoke to people about these non leathal weapons and can assure you they don’t help much at all against well determined pirates. They will shoot the hoses you have with guns and render them useless as well as any other device you may have. If they want to get on board they are getting on board and they are prepared for all the non leathal elements you throw at them and meet every one of them with deadly force. They have there own ladders and speedboats and large blankets to put over barb wire and earplugs for sounds and will shoot at anything you point at them! They know they will live and you will die. Facts

  36. I am a lawyer and it seems the only obstacle to properly arming a merchant ship are the various laws prohibiting bringing weapons into a nation’s port. Yet the port nation is in business and needs the import of goods, while the flag nation of the merchant ship is likewise in business and needs to deliver goods. It is in the interest of both the port and shipping nations to solve this problem — a problem best solved by a UN treaty agreed to by the nations affected which provides an international law allowing the safe but effective arming of merchant shipping. The nations involved will be compelled to work out a solution or lose business!

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