Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lessons learned from viral piracy attack video

An anonymous video of pirates attacking a small, laden bulk carrier has gone viral on the Web, with several sites taking the video down due to its fairly brutal consequences for the skiff crew. The video opens with the Master instructing control of the ship's steering be transferred from the bridge to the steering gear room as the skiff approaches the ship, and then the private security team engaging the skiff with live fire as it tries to come alongside and board over the starboard rail.

There has been hand wringing, wailing and anguish from various sections of the maritime community. However, the role of the security team is to protect the ship and her crew - one which they fulfilled. Queensbury Rules are not a feature of the asymmetric battle between normally unarmed merchant ships and AK-47 toting Somalis.

Piracy is a misnomer, a romantic term of a bygone era attached by the press and politicians to maritime criminals. The positive outcome of this anonymous attack has been the elevation of the real life dangers that ships' crews face crossing the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. That the video is likely to get viewed in Puntland can only be an added bonus.

The Antipodean Mariner

Lloyds List - Investigation launched as shooting video goes viral
PMSC’s use of force may end in legal action
Liz McMahon
Tuesday 24 April 2012
THE video of armed guards shooting at a pirate skiff that generated heated debate at the International Maritime Industries Forum last week has gone viral and may end in a criminal prosecution, writes Liz McMahon .
The video shows a private maritime security firm’s operatives firing what they called warning shots, but there was no gradual, or “onion layered”, approach to protecting the ship.
The guards continued to fire for some minutes as the vessel moved away from the pirates and the threat to the vessel became less urgent.
While some members of the IMIF felt the PMSC behaved in an acceptable fashion, the footage has generated a strong reaction from the private maritime security industry.
The authenticity of the video has not yet been verified. No security firm has come forward to accept responsibility for the incident. However, the International Association of Maritime Security Professionals has issued a statement on after conducting an initial investigation into the incident.
It said that the PMSC in the video had employed a questionable use of force and, after receiving expressions of concern regarding the video’s content, the IAMSP felt it had sufficient information to warrant an investigation.
The industry body said that after gathering information it had concluded that the nature of the events in the video warranted the attention of the appropriate flag state, understood to be the US, and not an administrative investigation.
The IAMSP is halting its investigation and will now defer to any decision that comes out of subsequent legal action from the flag state. It has urged the rest of the maritime security industry to comply with any flag state requests in this matter and not to conduct separate investigations.
However, the president of US PMSC Nexus Kevin Doherty has called on the Security Association for the Maritime Industry to conduct a thorough review of the incident.
“Security associations must ensure that firms are held accountable for their actions (and public statements) to ensure governance is not merely a paper tiger,” Mr Doherty said.
“Life is precious, and great care needs to be given by any security firm hired to provide defence. The use of force model is the cornerstone of any security firm. Threat identification, proper use of force understanding and incident de-escalation need to be paramount components of every security guard’s training.” 


  1. Honestly I do not feel sorry for the pirates. Excessive use of force is warranted when gun toting pirates are trying to board your vessel to kidnap you. ANY use of force is warranted if it makes sure you aren't boarded - the fates of the hostages currently being held should illustrate what happens when you aren't prepared.

  2. I fully support the Master and his security team.
    Shame they didn't have .50 cal's available.
    Regards, Ex Navy Greg.