Marine Link
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Tools for the Fight

May 16, 2002

Harbor security requires various techniques and equipment . The first element of harbor security is of course the usual guard personnel manning the watch. Although this is an effective start, better use of the guards on watch can be achieved by developing a guard force more adept at recognizing potential surveillance. Many organized pirating syndicates often develop their targets from within the harbor. This is often done through surveillance during loading of the ship. Training the guard force to understand piracy operations as they pertain to harbor intelligence gathering can greatly enhance the opportunity to deter potential maritime attacks. Another effective way pirates gain access to cargo information is through the workers on the docks or the staff working with the manifest. A way to combat this aspect of intelligence gathering is to develop and maintain an association spreadsheet. Once a spreadsheet is developed and tracked, relationships between dockworkers and members of pirating organizations will come into focus. This will not provide clear evidence that the worker is collaborating with known pirates but it will help security forces identify workers who may require further scrutiny. In some parts of the world, higher elevations and thick vegetation allows less organized pirates to observe the loading of cargo from an observation point outside the harbor. Pirates then move to small boats hidden in the shallow waters as the ship moves out of the harbor and into the shipping lane. Most security forces rarely venture into the deep vegetation because it is too thick to enter from the interior and the water is too shallow for most powerboats used by security forces. However, with the right boat and the right training these shallow areas can be turned into deathtraps instead of safe havens for pirates. One such boat suited for these shallow waters is a tactical jet boat from Sonicjet. These boats can accommodate a general purpose machine gun on the bow and fully operate in ten inches of water. This can dampen the spirit of any pirate relying on shallow water as security. These boats have over 200 horsepower and can operate in high seas as easily as in the shallows. These aspects make this boat very versatile for harbor security and their price in comparison to other security boats is quite the value. Their light weight allows them to be airlifted to different areas to maximize their use for counter-piracy efforts in shipping lanes. Base line models priced in the $40,000 range allow services with a small budget the ability to pack a large punch. They are also perfect for island countries with numerous shallow areas and tidal streams to navigate. Rigid Inflatable Boats, commonly referred to as RIBS are another excellent tool for counter-piracy in deep water and customs operations. There are several RIB manufactures out there. Zodiac is well known in the American market but Protector Boats provide some serious competition. RIBS are very effective for boat boarding operations. The fast speeed and maneuverability make it easy to overcome an evading vessel. The Protector RIBS can support a .50 caliber machine gun on the stern and the bow. This alone is enough to make any pirate stand up and take notice. But in addition, the soft sides allow it to run up against another vessel enabling security personnel to safely board suspect vessels. These RIBS are generally around $100,000 dollars, which is far less than a standard rigid hull design with the same speed and maneuverability, which can cost over two times as much. Many countries are facing serious piracy problems while trying to keep their national budget afloat. Many harbors are also trying to increase security without breaking the bank. I believe there are very cost-effective techniques to combat maritime terrorism. There are also some effective equipment solutions available as well. I rarely believe more guards are the answer, rather better use of the existing force. Whether on the open ocean or in the harbor, knowledge is the ultimate weapon!
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