My other blog is which is an archive of my works.......... Robert Ho REQUEST FOR STATEMENTS at


About Me

My photo
My archive of works is at

23 November 2008

Idea: Low Rations, Propellor Disabling, etc, Strategies to defeat pirates hijacking of ships for ransom

Pirates Seize Saudi Tanker off Kenya
from International *News* - The New York Times
The Saudi-owned supertanker loaded with more than $100 million worth of crude oil is the largest ship ever hijacked, according to U.S. Navy officials.

Somali pirates vow to resist any rescue efforts
MOGADISHU (AFP) - Somali pirates holding an oil-laden Saudi super-tanker will fight back should any military intervention to free the ship be attempted, a member of the pirate group told AFP Saturday from the coastal village of Harardhere.

1. One solution may be for all vulnerable ships passing this pirates-infested region to carry no more than say, a week's worth of food and water. If pirates succeed in boarding and taking control of the ship, they and the crew will have only a week's worth of food and water. This forces them to bring their own food and water along, which raises additional work and difficulty to hamper their operations somewhat.

2. If they dont or cannot, they will need to be resupplied with food and water. Then, this will create logistical and other vulnerabilities that their supply boat may be blocked, arrested, interdicted, etc. Thus, hampering the otherwise smooth and easy hijacking.

3. So, if police or navy boats can race to the hijacked ship fast enough to lay siege to the pirates, the hungry pirates may surrender after the week's food and water are consumed. [The pirates will consume the food and water and deny these to the captured crew but the crew will not be allowed to die because then, nobody can operate the ship].

4. If this Low Rations strategy is standard for all ships passing this region, piracy may be much reduced, since it will no longer be plain sailing.

5. It is not a good idea for the crew to jettison all the food and water [even if arranged to be thrown overboard at the touch of a button] because the pirates will exact revenge on the crew for this jettisoning of food and water].

6. After passing safely through this region, a waiting small supply boat can resupply the ship for the rest of its voyage. Quite a nice little business and wont take too much time.

7. If a hijacked ship needs to be stopped from being sailed to Somalia, etc, a last resort can be to disable the propellors much like a car illegally parked can have its wheel/s clamped. Inventors can start designing a Propellor Clamp/Disabler such that it would be easy to, in the case of a Rope-type Disabler, coil round and round the rotating propellor until the nylon rope strangles the propellor into stopping.

8. If a Tube-type Jammer, this jammer should stop the propellors without damaging it too much. Probably made of a hard plastic like the fibreglass material of kayaks and canoes. Once jammed into the propellor housing, this Clamp/Disabler device should be jammed and stuck into the propellor housing until removed. Even if only 1 Disabler is used on only 1 propellor, this would prevent the ship from being steered, maybe only going round in circles, etc. This jammer should be easy to jam from a small boat or dinghy. Another possibility is to disable or jam the Rudder/s, which would make the ship unsteerable.

9. With more time to develop from standard torpedo technology, a Torpedo-type Jammer could be perfected, that can be fired from afar, travel under its own power, and steer itself towards the propellor housing. Maybe a sea version of the remotely-controlled Predators. Torpedo technology is already very advanced and a minor modification to current tech is enough to make a good Disabler.

10. If this Propellor Jamming Torpedo can be carried and dropped/launched from a helicopter or plane, this will be much easier to do, since helicopters and planes can get to a ship by air far quicker than any sea ship. It is also possible to deploy these torpedoes around a pirate-infested sea region at floating buoys and markers, etc, then activated remotely when needed. It would be cheaper to make these torpedoes re-useable, since only the front part of say, nylon rope coils or fibreglass tube needs to be jammed to disable a propellor. So the rest of the torpedo carrying the electronics and engine can be re-used because only the front nylons or fibreglass will be damaged by the propellor rotations, leaving the rest of the torpedo behind it undamaged. Some disengaging/separation mechanism like the explosive bolts for warplane cockpits can instantly separate the front jammer part of the torpedo from the rest of the expensive torpedo the moment the jammer hits the propellor.

11. An even easier way is to fit an Electronic Disabler, that, at an encrypted radio signal bounced off from a satellite from the ship owner, commands an electronic circuit to disable the electrical system controlling the propellor/s. This will not damage the propellor or its housing at all. However, in all these propellor-disabling strategies, care will have to be taken to ensure that the motion-less ship does not drift onto rocks or aground, although this is a relatively minor problem. In heavy seas such as during storms, a motion-less ship may capsize more easily, too.

12. Finally, it may be possible that another encrypted radio signal from a satellite also controls the Anchor-Lowering circuit such that the anchor is also lowered to the sea bottom, to prevent the ship from moving, also for its safety from rocks or aground. The captain and crew should be powerless to restore normal functions of the propellor/s and anchor until the correct code is entered into the system, [radioed to the captain once the hijack is over].

13. However, while the signal may disable the propellor/s and lower the anchor, care must be taken to NOT disable the engines that generate the electricity for communications and safety operations of the ship. Communications and normal operations should continue for the safety and comfort of the crew and expensive cargoes on board.

14. You may want to consider having a helium airship constantly hovering over the area for surveillance and operations guidance and control. A stationary airship is better than high-up satellites or too-fast planes and helicopters that cannot stay still for long.

15. In addition, if, as I suspect, the only way pirates can board a ship is by throwing up grappling hooks, possibly with rope or rope ladder attached, then wouldnt it be simple to thwart this method by replacing all the straight horizontal railings with say, a series of separate-standing railings THAT ARE CURVED DOWNWARDS TO SLIP OFF THE GRAPPLING HOOKS, each downward curving railing leading outward and downward so grappling hooks slip off, unable to catch on to any part of the railing/s? The separation distance between each free-standing [upturned Ú'] railing should be wide enough to slip off even the biggest grappling hook but small enough to prevent crewmen and loose objects/cargoes, etc, from rolling/slipping off overboard in heavy seas/waves.

Idea: Airport Naming Convention to reduce runway accidents



1. From this article [ ], we get :

“The report showed that the 2007 global accident rate of 0.75 losses for every million flights by Western-built jet aircraft was slightly higher than the 0.65 rate recorded in 2006.

“The number of global fatalities declined 19 percent to 692, as passenger numbers increased by six percent to over 2.2 billion passengers in 2007.

“In total, there were 100 accidents in 2007 -- 57 for jet aircraft and 43 for turboprop -- compared with 77 accidents in 2006.”

2. The above Para 1 mentions only 'real' accidents on the runways and real fatalities but the total number of what is termed “runway incursions”, that is, mostly near-misses of airplane collisons, is far higher.

3. Specifically, I would like to refer to the tragic case of SQ 006 which took off on the wrong runway [closed, with construction pits and equipment halfway down the runway], crashing, burning, killing ~82 people on 31 Oct 2000. See :

4. A report is given in this url, from which the airport maps are taken :

5. This is the map of the whole airport layout. The beginning of the fatal wrong take-off on [closed] Runway 05R instead of the [correct] parallel 05L, occured top left of this map, circled in red and also detailed in a closer, zoom-in smaller map of the area circled [click on pictures to enlarge] :

6. Look at the closer map just above and note that in this fatal accident, SQ006 was suppposed to taxi along NP, then turn a right angle 90 degrees onto taxi-way N1 to taxi across Runway 05R to the correct Runway 05L. This means that SQ006 should have cut across and passed Runway 05R towards the further Runway 05L. From the taxi-way NP into N1, after turning right, SQ006 would taxi ~100 metres to reach Runway 05R but ~300 metres to reach the correct Runway 05L. Instead, SQ006 taxied from NP, turned right 90 degrees onto N1 BUT TAXIED ONLY THE ~100 METRES INSTEAD OF ~300 METRES ONTO THE CORRECT RUNWAY 05L. It may seem incredible that an experienced pilot and his officers could mistake 100 for 300 metres and thus take off from the wrong runway but this happens very frequently in airports all over the world even in the best of visibility and conditions. I believe the main reason is an over-reliance on abstract, technical procedures that are totally divorced from our daily, human experiences and judgments. For example, in this case, the pilot and his flight crew had runway and taxi-way lights, signboards, painted letterings on the runways and taxi-ways, control tower instructions, even advisory notes in hand, but still took off from the wrong runway BECAUSE NONE OF THESE CATER TO OUR INNATE, HUMAN EXPERIENCES AND JUDGMENTS.

7. So the crux of my idea is to build in clues or data into the runway procedures through nomenclature such that the very Name of a runway would have enough data that are cognizant to all pilots' human experiences to make it that much more intuitive and 'normal' thus hopefully, preventing such runway incursions or accidents.

8. For example, suppose we try to name humans. It is perfectly OK to name them Tom, Tan, Thambu, etc. But if you want to add data to these names, you could, for example, name them Tom28, Tan32, Thambu67, etc, the numbers signifying their age. Similarly, you can name them Tom75, etc, to signify their weight in kilos. Thus, this addition of data to the names makes them a lot more informative, even more meaningful.

9. In the case of our Runways, naming them, as currently, 05R and 05L, is like Tom and Tan. But if we rename them Runway 05R100 and Runway 05L300 or shorter, Runway 100 and Runway 300, WE WOULD HAVE ADDED THE DATA OF 100 METRES AND 300 METRES [FROM THE NP TAXI-WAY], THUS GIVING A VERY HUMAN, INTUITIVE DATA THAT ALL HUMAN PILOTS CAN FROM THEIR OWN INNATE EXPERIENCE, UNDERSTAND, 'FEEL', AND ESTIMATE PRETTY ACCURATELY. All pilots drive and experience [mostly road] distances in metres and yards, so this Data is directly relevant, intuitive and easily estimated even without any training or special effort. Thus, making runway taxi-ing and manoeuvring less abstract, more easily and intuitively understandable, almost like driving a car to a carpark or onto roads nearby. So, overall, much safer. From the air, pilots can also 'see' and estimate say, Runway 100 and Runway 300, especially when the Starting Point from which the 100 and 300 metres are measured, is clearly indicated.

10. The numbers should be taken from METRES because most of the world thinks and estimates in metres but since Metres are close to YARDS, non-metric pilots can also estimate pretty well, too. Thus, only the Number needs to be given, to the nearest 10 metres or so; no need to state Metres or Yards, etc.

11. Of course, all measurements and numbers must be taken from a clear and obvious Starting Point. In the case of this Taipei Airport, and probably in the vast majority of airports in Asia and probably also the world, I believe most runways are parallel, like in Taipei, so the Starting Point would be the Turning From NP. This should be clearly indicated by the usual Big Signs, Special Lights, Painted Letterings on the runways and taxi-ways, etc. As well as in Control Tower communications and literature. This would be about the cost of this idea. A lot cheaper than Airport Surveillance Radars [ see ].

12. This Naming System can make for easier and hopefully, safer, more intuitive, control tower instructions. For example, suppose you want a pilot to taxi 50 metres onto NP, turn Left, taxi another 400 metres, turn Right onto N1 taxi-way, taxi another 300 metres to Runway 300, you could use shorthand thus : 50=NP/L=400/R=N1=300@Run300. You could even SMS this. Since all distances and turnings on the runways and taxi-ways are already mapped and calculated to the nearest metre, this is easy to implement.

13. However, not all airports are so symmetrical. Some, like the one just below, are pretty confusing in layout, especially without a detailed plan drawing or blueprint. For this minority of airports, I leave the task of improving or implementing my idea to people more familiar with airport and runway operations. This kind of layout is putting me out of my depth.

Robert HO; Sun 16 Nov 2008.