Saturday, May 9th, 2009
Superyachts will be Attacked by Pirates
Superyachts will almost certainly become attacked by pirates and it is only a matter of time before a superyacht sailing in the Indian Ocean becomes a high-profile target of Somali pirates, according to Paul Kerr managing director of Proform Marine.
Luxury yachts, owned by some of the world’s wealthiest people, are moving towards the Mediterranean to spend the summer with many returning from the Indian Ocean via the Suez canal. They are leaving the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives need and heading towards the Gulf of Aden on courses that will taking them through the Somali coast’s pirate infested waters. In recent weeks, attacks on merchant ships have risen dramatically now that weather patterns off the Horn of Africa have turned calmer “Theses pirates have got better, faster boats and are able to operate at night up to 300 miles off the coast,” Kerr said adding, “If they can pick off a containership doing 25 knots with a high freeboard they can certainly attack a shiny white superyacht that just sparkles in the sunlight offering a very rich looking target,” he continued.
Proform Marine is a marine security firm based in Scotland that employs only former Royal Marine personnel and provides specialist maritime security advice. The company has seen a surge in demand for its services over recent months as piracy has increased and made the headlines again. As well as training superyacht Captains and crew on how to deal with the threat of attack, Proform Marine provides escorts for superyachts, passenger liners and cargo ships and advises them on the use of technology such as Sea Owl, high-pressure fire hoses and long range acoustic devices that have in the past been successful in fighting off pirate assaults.
“Pirates are getting very good intelligence on vessels and are learning about those heading to and from the Suez Canal and there is evidence to suggest that they are targeting some vessels and not touching others,” said Graeme Gibbon Brooks Managing Director Dryad Maritime Intelligence
Pirates have attacked what look like superyachts in the past. The French passenger vessel Le Ponant whose profile closely resembles that of a private sailing super yacht was seized when sailing without passengers from the Seychelles to the Mediterranean. Another yacht-like ship was attacked of the Seychelles. The live aboard dive boat, Indian Ocean Explorer had just dropped her passengers on Assumption Island when she was attacked, according to Kirk Green, director of Aquatours, the London-based tour operator that books diving trips on the vessel.
The threat that a superyacht will become a target has prompted some owners to instruct Captains to embark armed guards as part of the ships complement. Carrying arms on yachts puts owners into complicated legal situations, but some see it as necessary in order to protect themselves. Recently, the 64 metre Perini Navi motor sailing yacht Felicita West under the command of Captain Chris Callaghan, on passage to the Seychelles had already passed through the Suez Canal and was heading down the Red Sea when the two security guards, placed on board by Hill Robinson the yachts managers, heard from colleagues on a ship two days ahead of them, that they had been attacked and fired upon by pirates and that the security detail placed on board had been forced to jump from the ship into the sea in fear of their lives. Upon that advice the yachts southerly progress was halted, the yacht diverted to Sharm el Sheikh and there, after discussion with her owner, turned around and returned through the canal into the Mediterranean.
Lawyer Michael Moore whose practices in Fort Lauderdale specialises in superyacht work says, “I believe in peace through superior firepower. If my clients are planning to travel through areas known to be frequented by pirates, I recommend having the crew trained and armed. The captain should be given the flexibility to commence firing as soon as he or she perceives a threat by an unidentified vessel which approaches and refuses to turn back. Not exactly a conventional point of view, but one says Moore, “That has worked with 100% success to date. Success here is defined by the fact that not one of my clients has been boarded by pirates, whereas a few have been approached. All unidentified craft have wisely turned back when confronted by hostile fire.”
There are several reports of yachts, , having been threatened or approached by attackers but fortunately so far none of them have been. Taff Weaver of International Yacht Security, a firm based in Fort Lauderdale but operating worldwide said the piracy threat for superyachts has always been around, but the situation in Somalia now makes it imperative that Captains seek advise before passing though the area.