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.

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.

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.

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?

Image Credits

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

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View Comments (40)

  • 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'.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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,

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.


  • 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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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