The story in the BBC called “US Marines capture ship hijacked by pirates off Somalia” started to get me all excited about new methods of anti-piracy from the US military. Several things stood out as different from past anti-pirate exercises.
- Marines, not Special Forces or Commandos
- No shots fired
- Rapid response and conclusion
Then I read through to the real details and noticed that the pirates essentially gave up after the shipping company used a clever set of defenses to render their own ship useless.
The hijack began on Wednesday when pirates boarded the 8,000-tonne container ship, which flies the flag of Antigua.
But after searching the vessel for three hours, they were unable to locate the crew, according to the ship’s German owners, Quadrant.
The pirates then phoned the shipping company in Hamburg to ask where the crew were hidden.
“They were told the crew was on holiday,” said spokesman Juergen Salamon.
“They then asked how to switch the engines back on, but were told they were broken.”
The 11-man crew, comprising two Russians, two Poles, and seven Filipinos, spent the time hidden away in a small, cramped safe room whose entrance was not immediately obvious, Mr Salamon said.
I detect a tone of humor from the spokesman. This is very different from the tone I heard last year from shipping company security experts who were rattling on about the need for allowing weapons on merchant vessels.
Could this hiding technique, coupled with basic naval support and response, be a good interim solution? Disabling the ship and protecting the crew are smart priorities versus trying to calculate the risks of firefight. This instance certainly makes it look promising. I also noticed the BBC did not pick up on the success of new piracy courts setup by the UN in the Seychelles and Kenya.