At sea in the Indian OceanMarch 15, 2015, Laccadive Sea
Pirate on board!
This title is false and true as you will soon see. We are now in the midst of a High Risk Area for piracy that encompasses a large part of the Indian Ocean. Shortly after we left Sri Lanka we entered the zone, which is so large because the pirates have taken to using hijacked “mother ships” from which to launch their small attack boats with boarding ladders. The use of mother ships allows them to go over 1000 miles from their old haunts along the Somalia coast.
We were briefed by our captain before entering the zone and a number of precautions are being taken. Our ships crew now includes some French security guards to assist our security crew with the 24/7 watches, we are prohibited from certain decks at night and we have been informed about alarms, procedures, etc.
Our ship can generate quite a speed (21 knots) so we can actually outrun some of the mother ships, but if they get close they can launch the fast boarding craft. If the situation arises we will do a zig zag route, not to evade but to create large waves to disrupt the boarding craft.
One advantage of our ship is we have a high freeboard, meaning that the ship sides have no balconies or other means of boarding for about 18 feet above the water line. A defensively weak area is the aft section where working decks are closer to the waterline. This is addressed with about 16 fire hose nozzles spraying continuously to hinder boarding in this area. The amount of water they put out doesn’t seem to be very intimidating, however, as you can see from the photo.
At night we try to be less conspicuous by keeping heavy drapes in our rooms drawn and dousing all deck lighting to run almost dark. We do use running lights although there were times in the past when ships were completely dark in transit.
Pirate activity has dropped considerably in the last two years with increasing military patrols. The pirates typically board freighters and average about $10 million in ransom per ship, which is higher yield than the fishing activities they used to do before they were displaced by large commercial fishing companies. One trick the pirates use is to threaten to blow up tankers with rocket propelled grenades unless the tanker allows them to board. I suppose all the alcohol on this ship could be quite explosive as well.
We say that any pirate would rapidly give up holding us for ransom due to the demands for specialty cocktails, menu requests and insistence on that particular sunny spot on the pool deck for our steamer chair. It turns out that we are already captives in a way since our Captain Corsaro’s name, when translated, is “pirate”!
The photo is of the fire hoses that run recycled water constantly to keep the water pressure up, so if they are needed to ward off a boarding pirate, they will be ready for a full pressure spray.Read more