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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.