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