Real Life Training for Piracy Threats
When I was asked to take several tug and barge voyages through the Mediterranean and down the east coast of Africa, I knew I would have to prepare my vessel and crew to deal with potential piracy.
I was extremely disappointed to learn the US Government and European governments declined to share real time intelligence with the maritime community so we hired a private firm to provide us with aerial and available satellite information on a real time basis which provides us with limited intelligence.
For detection, we equipped the vessel with British Doppler radar and video thermal imaging cameras. This provided our vessel with about a four mile detection range. The radar detects the probable targets and the thermal imaging camera confirms the targets.
We evaluated hiring a private security firm, traveling in a basic convoy and realized our tug could not accommodate the parameters imposed on us so we decided to rely on ourselves to repel the pirate attacks if they occurred.
After some study, I came to the conclusion that touted Best Management Practices, "citadel procedures" or the "special ops guys" were just totally unrealistic for a working vessel so I developed a 4 day course tailored to workboats. My course trained the watch officers to understand the methodology and timing of known pirate attacks. I trained the deck watchstanders to learn what they would have to look for and how to assist the watch officer.
For reaction, we equipped the vessel with a high intensity light with strobe capabilities which could disorient attackers. We also trained the entire crew in armed response techniques and procedures. Two 3 man teams provided the response teams.
The crew is stationed on the second deck and protected by ballistic panels. They are equipped with radio headsets so we can coordinate defense. Each team has a lead gunner equipped with a Saiga semiautomatic shotgun with a 20 round magazine. That gun is loaded with buckshot, and the target is the RPG pirate. The second shotgun is a pump and is loaded with "buck and ball" rounds targeting the pirate skiff's helmsman. The third shotgun is also a pump with slugs targeting the skiff's engines. We trained everyone for 3 days using live fire training. The results were impressive.
We were threatened and did provide a show of force with the pirates choosing another target.
Robert Russo holds a 1600 GRT Oceans and Western Rivers with a MOT. His background includes 21 years with the USCG including 5 years being in charge of all security for the USCG. He was also a Certified Protection Professional with the American Society for Industrial Security.