Dealing with pirates

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by dave L, Nov 22, 2004.

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  1. dave L
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    dave L Junior Member

    Not sure if this is the right forum.. but here goes.

    An Australian sailor in the last few days has found himself embroiled in a situation where he was arrested in indonesia for "Gun smuggling" a couple of rifles and a hand gun plus lots of ammo was found on his converted freighter. the Sailor claims the guns were to ward off Pirates. Here is the link to the news story.

    It got me thinking. Has anyone ever heard of pirates being encountered either indirectly or directly?
    What can you do to mitigate the problem of pirates short of not going where they are renowned to hang out....Is it possible to design a "panic-room" or similar into the boat or would you be better off carrying weapons with you like the afore mentioned sailor.

    For those professionals amoungst this forum a question for you.....Have any of your customers asked you to design a vessel with pirate work arounds?
  2. B. Hamm
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    B. Hamm Junior Member

    There are places that have this problem, best advice is to stay away from those areas. They are very well armed and in powerful boats, you will neither out gun them nor out run them.

    Bill H.
  3. fcfc

    fcfc Guest

    I have not seen or heard of direct hard "pirate" case, but 2 "legal" pirate cases (both more than 15 years ago)
    I have seen in indian ocean islands (Not french, not commonwealth) guys in jail and their boat seized for some weeks by local naval army. Needed the help of french ambassy to go out of this situation. Local naval army (with 30mm cannon and .5 machine gun on their patrol boat) simply found that 2 bearded guys on a 50 ft sailboat was abnormal and took them for spies. The boat was being delivered from france to french islands by 2 professional sailors.

    The other case was in another island where a passing-by boat had the very very bad luck of being the kind the local custom chief officer enjoys. The boat has been seized by the local customs for an arbitrary reason, "stolen" while seized, and later renamed, and made with local "official" papers. The boat insurance was alerted by the owner. The insurance had proof that it is the same boat, but all actions in the local court lead to nothing except bribes and fines as high as the boat value. Court declared the owner was responsible for his goods while seized, not the customs.
    Perhaps the owner will get his boat back when the custom officer will think it is time to replace his boat with a newer one.
  4. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Piracy in many of the poorer areas ( particularly the Muslim areas of Indonesia, Africa, Malasia and Southern Thialand ) is increasingly a concern. Many boardings in these areas are by poorly armed groups sometimes with only one old firearm. Sometimes the Pirates have only knives and superiority of numbers.
    I guess the easy solution is either to sail in groups or to plan your route to avoid problem areas.
    A freind of mine carries a shotgun, he swears that firing it into the air saved them from being boarded after they were chased by a fishing boat for several hours one night sailing through Indonesian waters.
  5. RThompson

    RThompson Guest

    It seems that many things can result in piracy.
    Likewise there are many ways to avoid it.

    There are "professional" well equipped pirates targetting merchant ships.

    There are powerful and corrupt local authorities (most ocean cruising yachts I'v known seem to develope standard customs/local official bribery systems)
    Maybe in the same basket you could put bored navies/coast guards.

    Then there are opportunistic fishermen.

    The common thread is generally the geographical locations of the piracy.

    (And don't forget the privately funded "pirate" ice-breaker accused of ramming illegal whaling ships.)

    As far as defenses are concerned I'v witnessed things like demountable machine guns/rocket launchers, rifles and shot guns, hand guns, electrified life lines and so on.
    I was on board a yacht once in the Timor Sea when we were chased by a fishing boat. Assuming they had nasty intentions we fled. Our defense then was speed.
    An associate of mine was aboard a large steel yacht that was attacked at sea in southern America. They hid behind the steel coamings until the pirate vessel (a fast motor boat) was close then they started shooting back. The attacker, 10 or so men armed with automatic rifles, immediately turned and left the area. Their defense was a steel yacht and their own guns (and some would say stupidity)

    I'v heard stories of crews showing no defense and just giving the pirates evry thing in return for no violence, conversely there's also stories of crews showing no defense and being murdered in return.
    I guess it depends on what sort of pirates you intend on grappling with...

    The current news story:
    I think it would be a very unfortunate precedent to set if the skipper of an private ocean going vessel is punished for having arms onboard, especially when he is in a pirate prone area.
    A vessel of that size carrying a handful of hand guns (pun intended) is no cause for concern. The fact that they were not declared in that area is almost standard procedure. If you declare your (late model/good condition) arms to the local authority there is a good chance they will "confiscate" them,(or charge a high bribe) leaving you with nothing for the remainder of you voyage through pirated seas. The amunition? Well, how long does it take for several (5?) automatic guns/rifles to go through 2000 rounds in a fire-fight.
    (American's should be hot about this one - something about the right to bear arms?)

    Ocean going culture hasn't changed a lot in the last few hundred years, and I don't expect it will.

  6. dave L
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    dave L Junior Member

    So I guess it comes down to 3 options

    1) Avoid the areas completely, and not see many beautiful sailing grounds
    2) Arm yourself and risk the repercussions of having firearms onboard but potentially saving yourself.
    3) Leave it to chance that you wont get harmed should anyone decide you look like a tempting target.

    What exactly does international law say you are entitled to do? I realise that if you are sailing in a countries waters then you are subject to their laws ( or whatever the local cops demand).

    Has anyone heard of electronic systems that could broadcast a pirate distress signal or somthing. I imagine in this day and age of technology that you could send satellites info on course, location, souls on board etc. The only question is wether help could get to you in time? :(
  7. dave L
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    dave L Junior Member

    RThompson... I forgot to ask. What is the story with ramming whalers?
    Although I dont advocate ramming of vessels, it is certainly a unique approach to a problem that international law cant seem to fix. Especially considering the Japanese are whaling in Australian Antartic Waters. :(
  8. RThompson

    RThompson Guest


    My knowledge of the ramming is a bit sketchy, but this is what I remember of it:

    Maybe three or four years ago there was a bit of media attention aimed at
    some incidents in a northern sea. Apparently a (Norwegian?) ice-breaker would approach a ship in the process of illegal whaling and ask them to stop, when they declined the ice-breaker would line them up and ram them. (I imagine an ice-breaker has a certain advantage in this regard ;) ) - I think it happened 2 or 3 times.
    As ramming ones ship into another's is considered impolite by some people, it was declared a pirate (privateer?) acting illegally. However I believe the ship found itself with a substantial (clandestine) international support network.
    I'v no idea of the outcome.

    Someone else may have a more accurate description of events. or maybe a website?

    PS I forgot the last defense - dress in rags, and don't have a boat that looks worthwhile attacking... -its certainly the cheapest option all round
  9. cameronke
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    cameronke New Member

    I think you describe Sea Shepherd

    Hello all

    I believe the group that you describe are called "Sea Shepherd"

    The main man, Paul Watson was one of the founders of Greenpeace but found their methods a little tame!

    He left to found Sea Shepherd and take a slightly more direct action.

    I saw a documentary about them where they had a converted Arctic trawler with its Focsle filled with concrete and Huge spikes sticking from the sides and he was going after illegal drift netters in the Pacific. If he found any he would insist that they cease their activity. If they did not they were rammed and their driftnets destroyed.

    One mans pirate may be anothers eco-warrior!

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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    IN some areas Urban Pirates abound.

    Having lived aboard in New York City for 23 years , and sailed the Carribean for a decade , there are many EZ solutions.

    Simplest is a Sears 12V cattle fence unit , hooked to all the lifelines (bare wire) and all the ungrounded shrouds.
    This stops the bum boat boys from hanging on , or unwanted guests dockside.

    Second is a unit called Bugalarmist , which is a trip wire (or electric with delay) setup that expells Mace into the boat.

    They may break in while your gone , but wont go below.
    Airing out and internal washdown are needed if triggered.

    While aboard a simple mat with electric switching can turn on the horn & spreader lights , with a 5 min lock ON. This works well in most marinas.

    This is only a start , there are many other methods to deter scum , but not all are "legal" in some Burocratic Kingdomes.

  11. RThompson

    RThompson Guest

    Yes Cameron,
    Thats who I'm talking about, thanks for the link.
    My story was just about perfect...there was a boat (or two) involved, Norway was mentioned, whales are part of it -what more do you need?

    Certainly an inspiring website.
    Maybe I'll go to Japan for holidays...

    FastFred's got some pretty nifty ideas.
  12. Mick
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    Mick New Member

  13. Portager
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    Portager Senior Member

    Under no circumstances would I take a fire arm into a foreign country. It is one of those cases where the down-side potential far exceeds the up-side potential.

    My first defense will be to avoid cruising solo in dangerous areas.

    Second, we plan on taking our dogs along. In our case that will be two 120 lb Great Pyrenees. I think most pirates will look for easier targets once they get a look at our puppies.

    Even if your attackers have more speed than you, you can use your wake as a defensive weapon. By following a zigzag course and turning away if they try to go come along side, you can slow them down.

    You can also use a flare gun which is legal to have onboard. I’d fire the first shot up as a warning and as a call for help. If the Pirates persisted, I’d fire the second shot into their boat.

    Finally, I plan to mount a remote controlled fire hose or water monitor as they are known on fire boats. The flow rate is 170 gpm @ 175 psi and the reach is 170 feet. The flow rate is enough to swamp small boats in a few minutes and at closer range the impact can knock people overboard. The remote controlled monitors are more expensive, but it allows the crew (me) to fire from the safety of the pilothouse. In addition the pump to power the water monitor will provide an emergency bilge pump and with a diverter valve the output can power nozzles to provide bow and stern thrusters.

    Mike Schooley
  14. woodboat
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    woodboat Senior Member

    From the link
    27.11.2004 at 0910 UTC in posn: 05:02N - 098:28E, Malacca straits.
    Pirates armed with machine guns in a fishing boat opened fire and boarded a tug towing a barge. They kidnapped captain and C/O and stole ships property and escaped in their boat.

    Those guys with Machine guns are going to really be afraid of some dogs, your wake and your flares? Wait, I know, like you said travel as a group that way they have to be afraid of a bunch of flare guns.

  15. tarrysailor
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    tarrysailor Junior Member

    Dumb things

    Listen, forget doing dumb things like using firehoses against armed men. And forget hiding out in secret rooms. And forget using mace or pepper spray. I suppose, when you were a kid and someone wrestled you down into the mud, you said, "I can't wrestle you because my mama told me not to get muddy." Grow up.

    I can tell you all about guns. After all, the U.S. Army drafted me, now didn't it? The most natural thing in the world to do with a gun is to use your finger. I don't mean your pinky. I mean the one that naturally lies on the trigger. When a pirate tries to board your ship, you had better assume he's going to do what comes natural. And that means with your pretty wife and daughter, too.

    What you do need onboard is a hiding place for your guns, called a 'stash,' and an unloaded decoy pop gun mounted on a wall for local authorities to find and bribe you for. Get on the internet and find books on stashes, secret compartments and suchlike. Make them childproof! Make them teenager proof! And don't carry around an armory or a boatload of drugs. That makes you the criminal.

    Dogs are an excellent idea. Yes, you can train them yourself and it is easy to learn how. They can be trained to use a doggie do, too.
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