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Standoff
Hillary
Posted: Monday, February 13, 2017 9:07 PM
Joined: 19/08/2014
Posts: 61


S/Y Hideaway and her 10 crewmembers were making their third delivery passage through the Gulf of Aden bound for the Seychelles. Aware of the area’s piracy risk, the crew had started preparations months in advance.
 
“The risk differs slightly now as attacks have been in decline since 2012. Recent attacks have been focused in and around the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al Mandeb; we haven’t seen any long-range attempts at piracy (Somali pirates were reportedly active over a thousand nautical miles from Somalia during the peak 2009–11) and in response to this, the designated High Risk Area (HRA) was greatly reduced at the end of 2015,” explains Carl Fereday of Veritas International Security Consultants, a company based in the UK and operating on yachts worldwide. “Attacks on CPO Korea and LNG tanker Galicia Spirit in the last quarter of [2016] (the latter of which may have been connected to the troubles in Yemen) show that the HRA is not yet risk free.”
 
S/Y Hideaway’s captain had engaged a professional security company to provide a threat assessment and four armed team members. The yacht also had been equipped with reinforcement to one of her cabins, providing a “citadel” refuge for crew. A Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a nonlethal deterrent and loudspeaker that is aimed at approaching hijackers, also was purchased. “The LRAD was developed in response to the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. When maritime vessels and yachts broadcast LRAD voice and tone warnings out to three kilometers, pirates know they’ve lost the element of surprise,” says Robert Putnam of San Diego-based LRAD Corporation.
 
Under power, S/Y Hideaway could maintain 13 knots, a good passage speed, but not fast enough to outrun the fast ski s the pirates were known to use. Recent reports from naval patrol vessels in the area indicated suspected pirates had been seen using four fast boats with several well-armed men on each. Despite good wind being forecast, as part of their anti-piracy plan, the decision was taken to motor the passage, giving the crew increased visibility and the ability to change course quickly if approached. The yacht’s greatest weakness was obvious — the deck was close to the waterline. Unlike a tanker, it would be very easy to board. To combat this, the crew had put razor wire around the yacht’s toe rail as an additional deterrent.
 
“Veritas has advised all captains for the time being to remain as far west as possible away from Yemen while transiting through the Babel-Mandeb, adjusting speed if possible to approach and pass under the cover of darkness, keeping all four team members on watch through the narrowest region,” says Fereday.

Three days into the passage, passing close to land, S/Y Hideaway’s mate spotted two boats on the horizon approaching just after dawn. Having alerted the security team member on watch, Hideaway’s anti-piracy plan was put into action. “Once the security team is on board and has had a familiarization of the yacht, there will be a discussion, usually with the captain and bridge officers, to formulate the best possible lockdown procedure,” explains Fereday. “Once a good plan has been made, the crew will be briefed and delegated certain responsibilities, such as preparation of the citadel, securing of hatches, and roll call to ensure all crew are present before locking down. This is followed by practice runs and drills to confirm all are conversant with their role. Crew would not be expected to assist the security team or be external during an attack, aside from the bridge team who will be coordinating with the security team for reporting and evasive maneuvering. The remainder of the crew will need to move to the citadel area as quickly and safely as possible. Apart from needing to know where everyone is during an attack, if the worst happens and everyone ends up in the citadel, military forces will only board once [it’s been] confirmed [that] one hundred percent of the crew are in the citadel.”
 
Broadcasting on VHF channel 16 and using the LRAD, the captain warned the approaching ski s to stay back, while the mate communicated with the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) via satellite phone to make them aware of the situation. As noted on the IMB Commercial Crime Services website, “The PRC acts as a single point of contact for shipmasters anywhere in the world whose vessels have been attacked or robbed by pirates. All information received is immediately relayed to the local law enforcement agencies requesting assistance. Information is also immediately broadcast to all vessels in the Ocean region, providing vital intelligence and increasing awareness.”

“The rate of escalation is a key part of the Rules for the Use of Force, which armed teams follow in the event of an attack taking place. These rules follow the basic principles of self-defense to ensure a measured and justified response is carried out, even if that measured and justified response means using lethal force,” says Fereday, noting that escalation can happen in minutes or take hours.
 
With the skiffs coming no closer, but maintaining their parallel course, S/Y Hideaway was able to confirm their intentions — the crew were both armed and equipped with boarding ladders. The standoff continued for a tense half-hour. Having seemingly decided S/Y Hideaway was not the soft target they fiirst appeared to be, the boats broke away, not to be seen again.
 
Fereday is keen to stress the realities of piracy. “Remember that it is only a very small percentage of vessels that encounter acts of piracy at sea. The HRA is seeing [fewer] attacks than it has for many years, and no vessel has yet been taken with armed security on board. If you are prepared, well rehearsed, and vigilant throughout, you are mitigating risk, and the odds are stacked in your favor.”

 


 
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