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Merchant Vessel Defense Against Pirates Preemptive Measures Can Prevent Boarding and Hostage Taking

Andreas Uhl

Pirates seize an average of 40-45 merchant vessels annually in the waters around the Horn of Africa. Somali pirates currently are holding more than 20 hijacked vessels and more than 500 sailors hostage. Too often, ship operators fail to take proper anti-piracy security measures, effectively turning their merchant vessels into “Golden Geese” ripe for the taking, writes the author. He goes on to discuss proven methods of hardening commercial ships and training their crews to prevent pirates – whether from Somalia or elsewhere – from boarding vessels and taking crews hostage.

Andreas Uhl knows what he is talking about. A Commander in the German Navy, he has served as Operations Director for the European Union’s anti-piracy Operation Atalanta which was organized to protect merchant shipping and fight piracy in the Horn of Africa region between the Straits of Oman and the waters off Somalia.

The author discusses: the value of Best Management Practices established by the EU’s Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Office; route planning and coordination procedures with naval forces in the pirate-infested transit zone; physical security measures and defensive technology to prevent pirates from boarding a vessel; measures to prevent pirates who have boarded a ship from gaining control of the ship; methods to keep ship’s crew from being taken hostage; and proper training of crews in anti-piracy tactics.

Merchant Vessel Defense Against Pirates is published in cooperation with Marine Forum magazine, and is available exclusively as an e-book. Please click the link on this page to purchase and download from