November 19th, 2008
01:51 PM ET

How to beat the pirates? Out-run, and out-gun them!

Jamie McIntyre | BIO
Senior Pentagon Correspondent

As the pirates seemingly pillage with impunity off the Horn of Africa, the U.S. Navy has some advice: the best defense is … well, a better defense!

The problem is once the pirates get on board commercial ships, and take the crews hostages, the options are limited, and most countries or companies just pay the ransom, which only emboldens the pirates to pull off even more high-profile hijackings.

While the U.S. Navy patrols the Gulf of Aden as part of a multi-national force patrolling the waters off the coast of Somalia and Kenya, it can’t be everywhere at once.

The best, simplest answer is better shipboard defenses and smarter protective procedures, one U.S. Navy spokesman tells CNN.

“It like protecting a warehouse on land”, he says “You wouldn’t leave a warehouse full of valuable merchandise unguarded.”

And shipboard defenses don’t necessarily have to involve heavy weapons.

Attacks have been repelled by the use of fire hoses.

The pirates who operate from safe havens in Somalia are good at sneaking up on ships in small boats, and using grappling hooks to quickly board and overwhelm the crews who are often caught by surprise and unarmed.

So another answer is to flood the area around cargo ships with light, and post more people on watch.

Armed security teams are needed to both deter and repel borders.

That costs money, of course, and shipping companies are always trying to keep costs low.

Which may explain why another simple preventative tactic is underused.

According to the U.S. Navy too many of the merchant ships plying the dangerous waters off the Horn of Africa are going too slow, making them fat targets.

Traveling at top speed and taking evasive maneuvers would make the job of the pirates much more daunting.

But going faster burns more fuel, which again, costs money.

Still, it’s cheaper than ransom.

Filed under: Global 360° • Jamie McIntyre • Pirates
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Scott

    The Pirates of Somalia has nothing to do with toxic waste and illegal fishing

    The Pirates of Somalia has nothing to do with Politics

    The Pirates of Somalia has everything to do with Money plain and simple.

    The warlords have neither an ideology nor a political agenda. Their actions are solely driven by the pursuit of illicit enrichment and war booty. They carry primary responsibility for the agony of the Somali people. Their armed militias have murdered hundreds of thousands of Somalis. The warlords are opposed to the creation of effective central or provincial governments; because of the danger such authority would pose for their illegitimate businesses.

    the original question on how to beat the pirates.

    Short term: Zero tolerance Armed guards armed escorts paid for by the shipping company’s not governments.

    Long term: remove the warlords by force. The sooner the Somali people are helped to get rid of warlords, the faster another potential safe haven for terrorists, pirate’s warmongers will have been removed from the map.

    December 5, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  2. Michael

    Hasn't the USA exerienced this before in our history? Tripoli? Northern Afirica? It is unthinkable to say that Somalia on one hand is a failed state, and then say that once a pirated ship is within the 12 mile limit of Somlia, the legitimate navies on the high seas cannot continue in hot pursuit to save lives and property. Perhaps the EU has changed their minds, but I believe the culprits should still be tried at sea, and hung. These are nothing but thugs that have found a temporary way of making millions while the civilized nations of the world sit and try to decide how not to breach a nations "national waters". This is the same country that slaughtered American soldiers who tried to defend UN personnel trying to deliver food to starving civilians. The place is still a wasteland of warlords and nothing can be done about that. However, something can be done about the pirates. As the the person above said, destroy the mother ships and then the smaller craft. After a few weeks, fewer pirates!!

    December 1, 2008 at 4:54 am |
  3. Nicole

    Ali is right. Dealing straight with the pirates is like going after the tellers in the banks for the downfall. It's not the tellers but the executive officers and board members. Go after the real terrorist, the warlords. The people on the boats are so desperate, they will always be able to be replaced. You could sink all their ships with all the current pirates, there would be new boats and new crews in the morning. Got to cut them off at the top. But honestly even they would be replaced with the next level. Unfortunately, not only stability of the region would be necessary, but also a forceful, well managed and resourced government. That isn't going to happen anytime soon. Not for at least 5-10 years if they were on the right track now, and they are not.

    November 28, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  4. Pirate spokesman

    We will stop piracy when the international community addresses the
    root causes which is dumping toxic waste and illegal fishing that the
    European and Asian countries are engaged in.These dumpings of nuclear,industrial,and hospital wastes got to stop first because they taking advantage of that lawless country killing the poor people slowly.
    How about the illegal fishing that nets them more than $300mill/year
    stealing from that poor country.Most of the countries that do these illegal activities are the ones who are fighting the pirates so they can continue with their illegal activities.
    Three months ago the minister of foreighn affairs of Spain said
    "We must defeat the pirates because the fishing seasson has started."
    And why is the U.S.A not doing anything about?Because they are aware of what has been going on in Somali waters for the past 18 years.

    November 27, 2008 at 1:56 pm |
  5. Nelson

    Keith is right. We should make up some "Q ships" like the japanese used in WWII. Heavily armed ships that appear to be commercial vessels. When the pirates attack, annihilate them with overwhelming force. Make a horrifying example of them. Keep doing this over and over until teh pirtes get the message.

    Also, we use harbor pilots – a harbor pilot gets on arriving ships and guides them to the pier. Why don't we put security teams that ride the ship through the danger zone, and they get off and get on another ship going the reverse direction.

    November 25, 2008 at 12:17 am |
  6. André Kruger

    ~The free market has always proven most effective. Turn pirate fighting into a lucrative business. Use captured pirates as slave labour or organ donors. Some businessmen wil then come up with a way of catching them.

    ~Armour plate the bridge and seal it off when attacked, then shoot the pirates from this safe area.. rent out places for hunters wanting to shoot the ultimate prey.

    ~Hang all those who gave in to ransom demands, it is their money used now to fund more piracy.

    November 22, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  7. John

    Some heavily armed ships disguised as merchant ships would solve the problem. They should patrol up and down the coast with orders to STK and TNP if any hostile boats approached. When the pirates stop returning to port, others would stop going to sea.

    November 19, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  8. keith

    Use ambuscades. Near the Horn of Africa, send slow-moving decoys that have all the earmarks of rich targets, but in reality are heavily armed. When the pirates make their move, kill them all and sink their boats. After a few thousand of them bite the dust in this way, the rest will go back to shining shoes and collecting garbage for a living.

    November 19, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  9. Kenny

    Private Security companies on commercial vessels 4 men per ship with 2ea .50 cal M2 machine guns, 4 each PKM machine guns, dozen Ak 47'S, PLENTY OF AMMO AND MAGS, 2 long range sniper riffles with scopes. 2 thermal scopes, night vision gear, tactical gear and body armor. Cost 1 million a year per ship. This cost could be passed on to the customer. That has to be the cheapest option I would hate to imagine how much money it takes to keep so many war ships on location when we need them for other missions. 1 million a year to guard a 100 million in oil and that is only 1 trip the ship may make 4-6 trips in a year. Once you have your weapons and equipment you can hire TCN's train them up like they do in Iraq and drop the cost 500K per year. Smaller vessels that can not afford security could coordinate with larger carriers to run in groups with them and pay fee for escort service. That would help larger carriers with the cost. How ever you would have to impose restrictions on which classes of vessels could run together as larger ships can not maneuver very well in an attack. All that is needed is an international agreement on the possession and use of fire arms aboard ships? Last the authorization to use deadly force to repel pirates? These are the show stoppers...

    November 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  10. Mal

    If we know which ports these pirates use, what is preventing the US navy and the other navies in the area from simply sailing in and blowing up every ship in those ports? No ships, no pirates I'd say.

    November 19, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  11. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Frank, none of the ships taken so far have been American flagged vessels. How is this the US Navy's problem? The Navy's recommendation is sound. If these ships steamed faster while in dangerous waters, and if they armed the crew with small arms, they wouldn't be taken nearly as easily. In fact, some enterprising company might get smart and hire a bunch of ex-SEALs and rent them out to ships. They protect one ship headed one way, then transfer to the next headed in the reverse diirection.

    November 19, 2008 at 4:55 pm |
  12. Barry

    Piracy will continue until the risks and costs exceed the rewards. Ship owners need to make it harder for pirates to board their ships. Travel in convoys, weld blades that would cut a grappling rope below the gunnel, employ armed lookouts. Our navies need to arrest and sentence pirates to long sentences, or engage and sink them as the Indian navy just did. Patrolling an enormous open ocean is not the answer. A more effective approach would be to blockade Somali ports and search ships as they put to sea. Any ships with weapons would be considered pirates and treated as such.

    November 19, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Douglas

    I wonder how long it will be before they up the ante and capture a vessel with American passengers on it and hold it fo ramsome. Everytime they are successful gives them the incentive to go for large gains.

    November 19, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  14. Paula (Indiana)

    I am glad someone finally came up with a practical solution. It makes sense to use security lights, more guards and firehoses... Proactive measures always work better than reactive ones. The plan not only sounds more practical, but also more cost effective. We all have to watch our budgets these days... that should apply to the government, military, corporate America... everyone. Not just us poor folk!

    November 19, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  15. Steve Lusardi

    My goodness folks. This is not rocket science. The world has the tools. The companies have enough money. What we don't seem to have is the political will. Solve that problem and the pirates and warlords will be no more. Don't forget Tripoli. We did it then. We should do it now.

    November 19, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  16. George

    It's called a convoy...it worked in two wars and would work today

    November 19, 2008 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Jack Raiden - D.C.

    I say we send in the Special Forces or Navy SEALS to take them out and for that we get half the oil the ship carries.

    November 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  18. Ali Yonis

    Pirates work for warlords, and warlords live in five star hotels in Nairobi, SOLUTION: arrest warlords.

    The (UNSEEN) leaders of pirates are these warlords who are known, pirates are poor and cannot even afford food, they are used by warlords who benefit from ransoms and in turn buy drugs and guns for these stupid pirates.

    Ali Yonis Grand Rapids, Michigan

    November 19, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  19. Frank Marshall

    A U.S. Navy spokesman was interviewed today and pointed out to the
    public how large the ocean is and how its almost impossible to patrol it. The U.S. Navy doesn't get it! To defeat an enemy you have to go where the enemy is – something the Navy and Joint Chiefs seem to have forgotten. The pirates operate out of a limited number of ports. It would not take a large force to patrol a very limited area outside of these ports and engage the motherships and pirates in small boats as they come or go from these ports. Our intelligence can quickly identify the motherships and they probably already have. Sink the motherships wherever they are found including taking them out at anchor with airpower. Same thing for the small boats venturing out alone. It's easy to identify a fishing boat from a pirate boat. It's the one with a larger engine and no fishing gear and the crew is armed.
    The US Navy needs to get off its ass and get some results.

    November 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  20. Cindy

    This is what I've been saying all along. These ships need to have boats with them and travel in a pack. The boats could be naval ships or what not with guns and all on board to ward off the pirates. That is the only way that these attacks and hijackings are going to stop!


    November 19, 2008 at 2:04 pm |