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Monday, 20 August 2012

Speed in pirate waters, expensive but important protection

According to several sources ships slow down in pirate waters to save fuel and according to the Financial Times (May 2012) shipping companies are now relying on guards, rather than speed, for protection because a single day at lower speeds can save enough to pay the guards for the whole journey.

I’ve not seen this among the ship owners and operators I’ve talked to, but it is clear that high speed is a costly security measure.

If in fact the speed in the high risk area is lowered it will lead to an increased number of attacks and that the failed attacks will end much closer to the ships. Speed is a very good and non-violent measure. The speed itself drastically reduces the number of feasible ships to attack; calculations show that increases from 16 to 18 knots can half the probability of a successful approach. But a small increase in speed also lead to a relatively big increase in wave height in the ship’s wave system. This amplifies the effect of the increased speed and also makes it much harder to get close to and board the ship.

The speed reduction will therefore lead to:
pirates getting closer and that the number of shots exchanged will increase, but also
-  much more dangerous shots as the probability of an hit is increased with several hundred percent!

Lowering the speed will therefore introduce new risks which are hard to predict. Armed guards should not be the first measure, it should be the last!

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