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Pirate Attack Tactics

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According to the classification of the International Maritime Organization, there are conventionally three types of pirate groups:

Three types of pirates groups:
  1. Small groups (up to 5 people), armed with knives and pistols. Attack ships in harbor or high seas using the surprise factor. They rob the cash desk and passengers, transfer part of the cargo onto their boats and boats. The total number is from 8-10 thousand people around the world.
  2. Gangs (up to 30 people) armed with machine guns and grenade launchers. They often kidnap crews from ships and take the ship and cargo. The total number is about 300 thousand people around the world.
  3. International organized groups seize ships with especially valuable cargo (today it is oil and oil products). They have modern satellite navigation and communication facilities, an agent network, and a cover in power structures. Most often this pirate group type rob tankers, bulk carriers, container ships. Sometimes they attack private yachts. In 2001, a scandal broke out – pirates on the Amazon killed the America’s Cup winner, yachtsman Peter Blake. Experts believe that pirate syndicates have organized a shipping network from the stolen ships with a turnover of about $5 billion a year.
Another category of pirates.

There is another category of pirates that causes a lot of worries and troubles for seafarers. They are not even pirates, but sea thieves, whose purpose is to steal ship’s property and supplies. These thieves can steal anything that is not right, from the mooring lines to the property of the crew members. They can even take on anti-corrosion protectors that are sheared off the hulls when they are in ballast at anchorage in port or roadstead. As a rule, they have knives and show aggression only when trying to detain them. They work from small boats, sufficient to carry several people to the side and take away, for example, one or two mooring lines.

The tactics of pirate formations basically boil down to the following. Organized pirate groups, as a rule, go to sea on a base ship (“mother ship”). It depends on the displacement, towing or transporting several small speed motor boats.

At the same time, removable rigging is often used to make it difficult to identify a vessel as a pirate. They disguise it as a fishing schooner, tugboat or other merchant ship.

Pirates attack actions.
  • A fairly large number of pirate ships-floating bases of smaller sizes and displacement, operating mainly in the Gulf of Aden. As a rule, these fiberglass boats up to 12-15 meters long, equipped with sun canopies. They store the main supply of fuel, weapons, pirate equipment in barrels or cans. In addition, they store duralumin assault ladders with hooks from 3 to 8 meters long, rope “crampons”, communication and navigation equipment. Such a floating base vessel has a large cruising range with a speed of no more than 12-18 knots. It can accommodate up to 30 armed pirates, who in some cases are in camouflage and can tow up to 3 or more speed boats.
  • Boats for direct seizure of ships are mostly up to 6 meters long, are low-sided, with a rounded nose, made of fiberglass, equipped with 1-2 Japanese-made outboard motors, allowing a speed of 30 knots or more. A typical crew of a pirate boat numbers 5-10 people. They usually have a grenade launcher, machine guns and in some cases a machine gun. At the same time, weapons are more often still Soviet-made, but there are also more modern foreign models. Pirate boats (cutters) have no identification marks and outwardly practically do not differ from fishing ones.
Pirate’s Tactics.

In the open sea, having found a target suitable in all parameters, two or three attacking pirate boats approach the target simultaneously from several directions. From the bow course angles, pirates open fire from automatic small arms (sometimes they use a grenade launcher), first of all on the navigating bridge, then on the superstructures and the hull of the ship, trying to stop it. At this time, other pirate boats (cutters) approach simultaneously to both sides in the stern of the ship, set up assault ladders, throw up the “crampons”, climb aboard and seize the ship. At the same time, the AIS system and other technical means are turned off, by which it is possible to determine the location of this vessel, the direction and speed of its movement after being captured. In this case, it is much more difficult for the captain and crew to effectively counteract pirates and prevent the seizure of the ship. In narrow areas and in coastal areas where ships are constrained in freedom of maneuver, pirates use three basic techniques.

Pirate’s tactics at night.
  • At night, the pirates approach the stern of the ship in speedboats, throw grappling hooks and try to climb to the deck unnoticed. Groups of up to 15 people with weak weapons use this method.
  • Two pirate boats are in ambush on opposite sides of the fairway. A rope with a length of up to 100m is pulled between the boats. When the vessel passes, its stem hooks on the rope and tows it forward. The boats, respectively, approach the vessel, which provides an attack from two sides at the same time. Typically, it is a group of 15-25 pirates.
  • Pirates approach the ship from different directions (mainly at night) and open fire from automatic weapons in the wheelhouse, trying to force the ship to stop. Such attacks involve up to 40 or more heavily armed pirates (up to and including hand grenade launchers). Pirate attacks can take place almost at any time of the day, however, a significant number of them occur during daylight hours, including morning and evening twilight. It is also characteristic that quite often pirate attacks coincide in time with the meal and afternoon rest of the crew members. Usually, the pursuit of the vessel lasts from 10-15 to 30 minutes, the seizure itself from the beginning of boarding until the pirates fully establish control over the vessel takes from 8 to 20 minutes.

All Image Credits – The EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia.

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Alexia Livathinos
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