Why We SHOULD Arm Our Ships Against Pirates

This entry was posted by Sunday, 12 April, 2009
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Credit to morguefile.com for source images (combined here)


This being my blog, I get to have an occasional rant even if the link to science/technology is imperceptible. Today: Pirates. And no apologies for the topic.

As you surely know, modern day pirates are adding to the tension between “old ways” and “new ways” that has been boiling for some time. Most of the briggands are currently from the “horn” of Africa. The captain of the Maersk Alabama, recently held hostage on a capsule lifeboat, was reported released a few minutes ago after an intense standoff between the pirates and the US Navy.

Great news.
However, after a weekend of profound concern, it is troubling to me, MISTER ScienceAintSoBad, that all solutions are being considered to this problem EXCEPT the obvious one.

The long-term (and, perhaps, elusive) solution is, indeed, to end the desperation of those who would risk their lives attacking modern vessel. But in the short-term, shouldn’t these ships be armed and armored?
Shouldn’t the points of vulnerability such as the wheelhouse have heavy armor or other kinds of protection which can be deployed against the bullets and small explosives that the crews are likely to encounter? Shouldn’t these ships carry weapons and individuals trained in their use?

The principle arguments against these measures seem to be:
1. Much higher insurance costs for the shippers. BUT the long-term costs including the costs that have to be born by the crews and families of these ships need to be considered. Perhaps some private or public leadership here.
2. Complex laws governing arms in each port. Again. This can be sorted out with some determined leadership.
3. Some cargoes are flammable or explosive. But wouldn’t that be a great reason to raise the risk to would-be pirates of using our ships for target practice?
4. And this one I really love: we don’t want to start an arms race. We don’t want to start an arms race between the guys who have the big guns (that would be us) and the guys who can’t afford them? WHO’S side are we on?

My rant is over. I will return to science and technology.

2 Responses to “Why We SHOULD Arm Our Ships Against Pirates”

  1. Anonymous


  2. Alan Wild

    Access to the decks of large container vessels and cruise ships is simple – most have permanent ladders built-in to the side. The capability of a near-radar with an alarm in the wheelhouse, and the removal of ladders as mentioned above would go a long way toward making a large container vessel and/or cruise ship easily defensible.

    Small arms ought to be permitted aboard. The Maersk company policy, prohibiting this simple protection, contributes directly to the problem of piracy.


    Smart pirates know this and select targets accordingly. If you want to be boarded, fly the Maersk flag.


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