Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Change in Piracy Tactics

While working on the water in maritime security, we are consistently looking for ways in which pirates have been evolving in their tactics. Some time ago, a pamphlet was produced describing various ways that small skiffs would line up across a shipping lane under the control of a “mothership” in order to scout and, if the opportunity presented itself, attack. Over the past year, we have come to understand that these ships are much more mobile—but still operating in roughly the same manner. This generally involved the skiff making some kind of pass at the ship and then moving from the scouting / observing phase onto an attack phase that involved a range of weapons being used—the most common being the RPG and the AK-47.
On the morning of January 19th, 2011 in the area around 18 31 N 57 38 E, our team observed something much different. The facts, as determined by direct contact with our security team on board the vessel, began with the observation of a RHIB approaching from dead astern at very high speed (in the neighborhood of between 35 knots and 40 knots based on estimation). The security team followed its standing operating procedures and the approaching RHIB broke away and withdrew upon the initial display of preparedness and force.
There are two elements here that are crucial. First, this is obviously a different kind of that is designed for speed. It is also a reasonably high-value item (in terms of relative rarity) that one would expect not to be wasted or put at too much risk. The second is in how the attack itself was conducted and terminated. If this was an attempt at intimidation (in order to stop the vessel), the chances are that weapons, or even firing given the history over the past week, would have been involved. In this case, it was a high speed approach from an area that would be less likely to be observed under standard watch keeping practices. This is much more likely to involve the identification and testing of the security posture of the vessel—as well as the coherence of the response.
So, what does this mean? It means that we in the industry need to remain sharp and continuously review our own practices. This is a natural part of what we do and what we have found that most credible security companies do. What this has shown us is that the other side of this equation is doing the same

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