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.
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