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From razor wires to sonic booms, how cruise ships are protecting you from pirates

While hearing ‘pirates’ probably makes you think of eye patches, hooks for hands and regrettable Halloween costumes, pirates are actually as rampant and dangerous as ever. However, cruise ships have thorough procedures to protect themselves from pirates, particularly in areas known for high rates of attacks.

There were only six reports of pirates attempting to attack cruise ships over the last 10 years. – in fact there has never been a successful pirate attack on a cruise ship. However, this doesn’t mean cruise ships aren’t prepared for the worst.

Royal Caribbean crew member and Tiktok user ‘ericafromamerica’ shares what her ship did for safety when it sailed through the Gulf of Aden, a hotspot for Somalian pirate activity.

Safety procedures included

  • No one was allowed on the outer decks
  • All guests had to do partake in ‘pirate drill’
  • All outdoor parties moved inside
  • Extra military support on board
  • All of the lights on the ship go out at night

Carolyne Jasinksi, a luxury cruise passenger also sailed through the Gulf of Aden and its surrounding seas and wrote on News.com.au of her experience.

“It was made very clear on the Sea Princess, very quickly, that this pirate threat was not something to be joked about.”

“Any remaining smirks soon disappeared as the pirate drill alarm sounded and the crew was instructed to move on to their designated muster stations.”

Ms Jasinski also said that 10 of the cruise’s 104 days at sea were spent in a dusk to dawn lockout as the ship sailed through the high-risk waters.

“The captain said we could outrun any pirate ships but just in case, officers were on watch 24/7 and fire hoses were at the ready on Deck Seven. If the high-pressure spray didn’t stop wannabe intruders, the detergent solution should. No entry here for those slippery little suckers.

“If all else failed, there was the sonic boom – we were told it can knock pirates off their feet or ladders if they get too close.”

The sonic boom Ms Jasinski referred to is LRAD technology or Long-Range Acoustic Device. This is a way for ships to non-lethally ward off attackers. It blasts a piercing noise in a directed beam, so ear splitting it can cause permanent ear damage for people more than 300 metres away.

In 2005, luxury ship Seabourn Spirit was attacked by pirate speedboats off the coast of Somalia, who were firing bullets and shooting rockets at the ship. After initial attempts at warding off the attacks were unsuccessful, a security officer turned the LRAD onto the pirates and quickly repelled them, forcing them to abandon their attacks.

Another example of pirate defence technology is the ‘Nemesis 5000’, designed by Security Alliance For Effective Solutions. This is a water gun that shoots an 128km/h ‘360-degree curtain of water’ to blast pirates and repel their attacks.

Other known precautions taken include placing razor wire around the outer edges of the hand rails to prevent pirates from using grappling hooks to climb onboard. This is sometimes even joined by bundles of logs that can be released onto smaller boats that attempt to attach themselves to the hull.

Anastasia Tyler, even wrote on her cruise blog that when a cruise she was on was approached by pirates, that there were two snipers on board the ship.

For obvious reasons, cruise lines stay quite tight-lipped about what they actually have on board in event of an attack, which means it is only speculation to wonder what is on any particular ship.

However, while pirate attacks remain a threat you can be rest assured that cruise ships are prepared for the worst and history shows the pirates efforts will only be in vain.