Question of the Day: What Weapons Would You Use to Defend Your Mega-Yacht from Pirates?

According to icc-ccs.org, here’s where we stand in terms of piracy on the open seas off the coast of Somalia, as of March 1 . . .

Incidents Reported for Somalia:
Total Incidents: 61
Total Hijackings:13
Total Hostages: 243
Total Killed: 7

Current vessels held by Somali pirates:
Vessels: 33
Hostages: 711

And yet, if you scan the official advice governments are giving Captains sailing merchant vessels through pirate-infested Indian Ocean waters, there’s no mention whatsoever of using firearms, missile or big ass machine guns for self-defence. According to palmbeachpost.com . . .

Everyone from boating bloggers to government agencies is [sic] offering advice on how to avoid an attack. The International Maritime Bureau has put out a 76-page document advising vessels about travel near the Somali coast and the Arabian Sea. High on the list is not to use firearms.

Of course, the private boaters aren’t about to listen to some Internet nerd or stuffy maritime quango when their lives are on the line. Over at superyachts.com, we learn that the captains of industry are taking fewer chances with their security:

Another method of deterrence is to hire contract security companies who can provide expert surveillance methods, also offering to engage or suppress pirate attacks. Mr. Gibbon-Brooks stated “even though they have advanced kit, it is still very hard to determine a good guy from a bad guy. The skiffs they use resemble fishing skiffs and if security companies fire on the wrong people the owner is most likely liable for the contractor’s action” A pirate was killed by a contracted security official for the first time this year, and although pirates never usually harm crew, it could bring about an increase in violence if both attacker and ship are armed.

Surveillance and defence technology is readily available to ensure safety. Nobiskrug [above] have recently released their Mega Yacht Defence System, offering a significant increase in onboard security using state of the art technology which is scalable to the owners needs. The equipment holds continuous surveillance, automatic alarms, effective defence management and secure communications to name a few.

Our friends at the Huffington Post reveal that big boys have plenty of toys with which to defend their really big toys.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich boasts not only the world’s largest plane (the ‘Bandit‘), but also the world’s biggest yacht: a 557-foot mega-boat called the Eclipse, which recently set sail from Hamburg, Germany.

The luxury liner has more than a few high-tech amenities, including bullet-proof glass, a missile defense system, a submarine, and an anti-paparazzi laser shield.

So, the question to you: how would you equip your mega-yacht to defend against pirates? Please include all personal and staff firearms.

 

comments

  1. avatar Ralph says:

    Some RPGs and a boatload of Marines with M4s ought to do it.

  2. avatar Aaron says:

    The article itself tells us a lot already: the super-wealthy can afford the radar systems and fast engines for avoidance (and perhaps even having the onboard security detail piloting tender craft “patrolling” a certain radius from the yacht).
    If the vessel cannot shake off determined pursuit, there are always ultra-bright searchlights, laser dazzling systems, and of course, fire hoses.
    If those fail, then it is up to the inhabitants of the craft to decide either to become hostages, or to fight it out with their personal weaponry. Although an armored bridge is a good idea, thinking that it could act as a floating “panic room” in which you could hide out till the bad guys go away or rescuers arrive is a fantasy.
    It’s probably best not to have anything chambered in a military caliber – so issue the security guys with .357 revolvers as sidearms. Keep wooden-stocked pump shotguns in the weapons locker. Bolt action rifles in .300 Win Mag might be good for precision work – if you have quality guys aboard your vessel, they could take out the engine of an approaching skiff, or shoot a pirate about to loose an RPG or dump an AK mag at them. It should easily punch through a fiberglass or light metal bulkhead behind which a bad guy is seeking cover. I can’t think of a semiauto rifle not in a military caliber for possible CQB work. But I suspect that at likely encounter distances, a shotgun will acquit itself just fine.
    And also, have a really, really big seachest full of “look the other way” money in case the port authorities decide to board and take a peek. During an inspection, a smart captain will get a glass of his best brandy ready and order the usual female hangers-on to smile coquettishly at the customs officers.
    Although I never like hearing about pirate attacks, I have far more sympathy for the not-quite-so-affluent in their small craft. Someone who chooses the megaboat lifestyle has also decided to let the world know how wealthy they are, and therefore become a target. But they have the resources to avoid and defend.
    Someone in a small craft should use avoidance if they can. Again, super bright searchlights could help make boarding more difficult, as could the application of a fire hose.
    But for actual violent self-defense action, I don’t think anyone on the high seas should be without a good revolver, reliable pump action or a powerful, accurate boltie.

  3. avatar Martin Albright says:

    I would use a GPS Receiver to keep me the hell away from Somalia.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Not so easy if you’re heading to or from the Med. I’ve been around Cape Horn in a boat—a BIG boat—and I think I’d rather take my chances with Somali Pirates.

  4. avatar Jayson says:

    I don’t remember what they are called but I saw a video a while back on this automated missile defense system on these large ships. They use sonar or radar or something and don’t let ANYTHING within so many yard of the ship.

  5. avatar Magoo says:

    Roman Abramovich has nothing to fear from Somali pirates. It’s sorta the other way around. He’s a scary story Somali pirates tell their children at night.

  6. avatar TTACer says:

    It depends on whether I had a mega-yacht or a regular yacht. If I was wealthy enough to have a mega-yacht, I would probably outsource security for the same reason that I wouldn’t be doing my own taxes. Division of labor is one of the defining characteristics of a civilization, at least according to my 7th grade world history class. If I was just wealthy enough to buy a 60′ footer and a couple thousand bibles, and crazy enough to go to the Horn of Africa to give them away, then I would probably be too crazy to come up with a viable plan. If it was me (sans Bibles) I would think that looking poor and have a .50 at the bow and stern would be sufficient. Unfortunately you can’t make port in most places when you are rocking Browning’s finest. It seems to me though, that noise-makers and bright lights are not likely to work for much longer, if they even work now.

  7. avatar Gregory Merlon says:

    Generally speaking, the only guns allowed on boats or ships that stop by in non-US ports are shotguns. So, I would probably get several semi-auto shotguns and store them with various loads of buck and birdshot(the birdshot being for birds, not people), and probably some sort of longer-ranged slug. I haven’t heard of any regulations against dazzlers too, which I would use to try and blind pirates while they shoot at my ship/boat.

  8. avatar Ryan Finn says:

    If I have the $$ for a mega yacht then I’m gonna assume I have some money for some good weaponry too. That being the case, I’m thinking a well trained crew armed with AR’s, M110 SASS’s and 9mm sidearms could most likely repel a boatful of teenagers with AK’s. Howver, as others have brought up, you may run into some issues when you try to put into port.

  9. avatar Nathan says:

    A friend of mine (ex-navy) was contemplating this very thing, but instead of protecting mega yachts, it would be protecting container ships and tankers (and yachts if they paid).

    Purchase the decommissioned KNS Madaraka from the Kenyan navy, outfit the aft missile deck with a 40mm BOFORS, and have some bridge mounted GPMGs (M60, PKM), and then outfit the crew with a decent array of small arms, namely shotguns and carbines for defense of the vessel from boarding and etc

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      Interesting idea, and it gets around the problem of armed vessels not being permitted in ports.
      Max Hardberger’s book Seized is a fascinating and entertaining book about a different kind of piracy – using legal maneuvers in bought-off third world courts to transfer ownership of vessels – and how he recovers them.
      He’s apparently branching out into shipbreaking, and private maritime security, too.

  10. avatar FlintLock says:

    The real reasons ships are almost never armed is mutiny. Ugly to say it, but it’s true. A captain’s authority is tenuous at best underway, arming the crew is a huge risk that is difficult to justify. Without having an impolite conversation about the value of the lives of yacht owners, the typical ransom for a commercial vessel is a tiny fraction of the cost of the vessel and its cargo. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden has not come close to the cost/benefit point where it makes sense to arm vessels and fight back. Right now it’s simply another annoying cost of business.

    Interesting write up here: http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/17-07/ff_somali_pirates

    1. avatar Martin Albright says:

      I’m not sure how likely mutiny is on civilian commercial vessels, but there are a number of other problems regarding weapons:

      1. Training and proficiency. This means not just “which end of the gun does the bullet come out of” training, but more importantly “when can you legally shoot and when can’t you” type of training. The cost of a wrongful death lawsuit because of a trigger happy crewman can be as high as ransom from a pirate.

      2. Many countries have problems with firearms. Having arms for the crew could easily become a way for illicit arms merchants to funnel weapons to people who those countries don’t want to have weapons. How easy would it be for a crate of “self defense weapons” to “fall off the boat” if enough cash was offered? Pretty darn easy and that’s why many countries strictly prohibit arms on merchant vessels.

      3. Theoretically I suppose you could solve problem #1 and maybe #2 by farming the job out to private contractors, who would have to strictly account for their weapons as a condition of being allowed to operate in some areas. Probably more effective, but think about it from the perspective of a merchant, who is, after all, running a business: Now you have a body on board who will occupy your berthing space and consume your food, but who doesn’t actually do any work unless the ship is threatened. That can really eat into the profits and it may be cheaper to just gamble with the risks and pay higher insurance premiums.

    2. avatar Aaron says:

      It’s not just mutiny – supposedly some of these pirate attacks are helped by an “inside man” on the crew. So arming the whole crew could potentially mean arming a fifth columnist, too.
      I still believe in ‘arming up’ seagoing vessels, I’m just pointing out an interesting objection I’ve read.

  11. avatar Sport Shooter says:

    Well, this is pretty easy now.

    I would want one of those Carl Gustav recoilless rifles with a few rounds of “meat grinder” ammo. Even if by some miracle all the pirates escape unscathed, the good money is on them not sticking around for round two.

    1. avatar Vigilantis says:

      I think a 240 Bravo would have a bit better range, and it mostly avoids that whole reloading issue.

      1. avatar Sport Shooter says:

        Yes, a 240 Bravo is nice and would probably do. But the way I look at it, the Carl Gustav is like gods shotgun. If nothing says “get the hell out of my house” like pumping a shotgun, then fireing one of the Meat Grinder rounds would probably say get the hell off my ocean pretty effectively. plus, like a shotgun, it sounds like you don’t have to worry very much about aim, just point in general direction and pull the trigger. I imagine aiming on a moving and bouncing boat is not easy.

  12. avatar Patriot Henry says:

    M2s,10mm MP5s, Glock 20s, and a for back up gun, Bond Arms in 10mm. You should have a landing boat and helicopter to go into ports, the main boat should stay in international waters.

  13. avatar Sean says:

    The laws about having various firearms on board would be a problem for most. Perhaps not for the super wealthy who have these giants yachts.Rules don’t really apply to them. I think any decent combo of battles rifles, shotguns and good training would be enough to discourage most of the pirates. I would imagine I would have a lot of Rem 870 Marine, or Mossberg Mariners. Lots of buckshot. Some rifles in 7.62. Those new SCAR 17s might work out well.

  14. avatar BLAMMO says:

    Well, if money is no object, I’d use the Enterprise.

    NCC-1701 , not CVN-65.

    1. avatar Captian J Micale says:

      Oh yes.. I completely agree.. NCC-1701 … there are conventional ways to neutrualize someone elses craft with an electrical surge “almost like an emp” however, it would render our craft with the same problems.. I have reasearched this for a long time.. and without literal guns to defend your vessal, this is the best way to defend without hurting anyone else.

  15. avatar Gunner442 says:

    A-10 Warthog

    1. avatar John Fritz says:

      Oh yeah, low and slow. Those things can almost hover while they destroy whatever it is they’re pointed at.

  16. avatar Bob H says:

    According to the reports I have seen, the pirates are commonly armed with AKs and RPGs. Anyone know the effective range of the common types of RPG? For defense I want something with about twice that range.

    1. avatar mik hemon says:

      well the stranded soviet rpg-7 has a range of up to 950 meters but if you’ve ever played a video game you’ll know that rpg’s aren’t notorious for going in straight lines. as for something double that i’d advise the fgm-148 javalin which has an effective range of over 2km

  17. avatar mik hemon says:

    all windows should be bullet proof, sniper rifle to take out individual targets a javelin anti vehicle missile to sink larger boats. i would also want to be able to quickly destroy small boats like the skiffs the pirates use for that i would have half a dozen mini-guns spaced around the outside of the ship. i would also have shotguns and sub machine guns in various weapons lockers around the ship to use once the pirates board. i would also have an attack helicopter to escape with. finally i would make surethat i bribe the navy of any country i’m nearby. F**k with me now you pirate b*****ds .

  18. avatar Joe says:

    Honestly, if you are concerned for pirates only. LRAD is perfect. keep some stringed M-80’s and a steel can near microphone. If they hear that at 150 decibles, they will NOT approach vessel. Any over-stimulis of a sense (in this case hearing) will illicit an immediate fear reaction. They won’t notice that shells are not hitting water or boat. They will flee for fear of their life. You can have some plastic M-60’s wielded by crew and they will be sh**ting their pants.

  19. avatar Joe says:

    Honestly, if you are concerned for pirates only. LRAD is perfect. keep some stringed M-80’s and a steel can near microphone. If they hear that at 150 decibles, they will NOT approach vessel. Any over-stimulis of a sense (in this case hearing) will illicit an immediate fear reaction. They won’t notice that shells are not hitting water or boat. They will flee for fear of their life.

    If you want a more aggressive approach. Always keep at least 4 cases of vodka on board and have pre-made cloth stoppers to make an instant Molotov Cocktail for close approachers.

    If you want an evil approach, figure a way to adapt the fire hoses to be fitted with flame thrower heads (your engineers could do this). Or just retro-fit “fire hose heads” to attach to compressed fuel tanks. Those could be easily detached and would not look like a weapon. But only do that if you like your pirates extra crispy…

  20. avatar Captain America says:

    On most yachts, the owners don’t want to be reminded of the dirty little truths of high seas travel. They are there for vacation. The Mega and giga yachts are low priorities as targets of oportunity in most waters. Too big to get rid of on the market. The owners aren’t aboard in dangerous areas. The big boys do employ security and have access to state level protection. Its the modest super yachts that make for good targets. Small enough to not stand out too much, big enough to haul contraband. Narco piracy was a major issue in the 80s. My father was shadowed on three trips by suspicious speed boats way the hell offshore. Back in the day you could call NAS Viques off Porto Rico for air cover. 1,600 miles in less than 5 minutes. I don’t need heavy weaponry, I have the US Navy.

    Now that NAS VPR is gone, we are looking at a Bushmaster .50 to put large splashes in front of them at range and water in their boat as they draw closer. If they do not get the hint, holes in the engine. A second long arm in .308 or .338 for a second crew. I like the suggestion of Molotovs. Great idea. CQB we are looking at Glocks, Berrettas or equivelant in .40 or .45 ACP. Over penetration could be an issue. We considered carbines for their “scary looks” but deemed that ineffective against someone who makes a living by piracy.

    If we become a specific target rather than of oportunity, we will likely be overwhelmed quickly. i.e. multiple assault craft, military grade weaponry and training and shear numbers. Fortunately, my boss isn’t a big enough target.

    As for customs, we don’t carry any weapons aboard, sir.

  21. I would use 2 MI-24 Hinds. I saw the Russians testing anti sub motors on youtube, they might take out a pirate ship. There are also some neat anti rocket guns that turret around, also on youtube. Phalanx Close-In Weapon System.

    High impact glass for windows. sonar, radar. Steel Hull.

  22. avatar MacroDave says:

    If I had anything resembling a mega yacht and I went through less than awesome areas like Somalia I would put M2’s at each corner of the ship as well as having an armory full of rifles, shotguns, and pistols. When I am going into port in a non-gun friendly nation I would lock up all my guns on a smaller boat, most mega yachts have good sized secondaries attached, and they would stay out at sea. If I was going through a straight where I wasnt able to take any guns I would put them on my helicopter to take to the next place where we can remount up.

  23. avatar Evan says:

    If money and laws were not a problem, I would sail around the cape with a battleship, preferably a remake of the Yamato.

  24. avatar Tom Trenton says:

    I’ve just read the comments posted on weapons for a mega yacht. While I have no argument with the comments read regarding defensive weapons and tactics made by the various advisors here I have this to offer: thinking about defense for a mega yacht is not the place to start when thinking about defending a boat. If you can’t defend a small, slower moving boat effectively then your chances of defending a large ultra fast boat are not much better. Why?

    First, any defense will only be as good as the people trained to use the weapons and a captain who is expertly trained with piracy tactics. While much of the piracy news is about the coastal waters of Somali and Africa’s Gold Coast these facts do not cover the majority of piracies occurring around the world. These piracies occur from deception rather than full blown assault. A captain of a vessel without a procedure to establishing the ‘friendliness’ of an approaching vessel as well as whoever requests to board is both foolish and vulnerable. This includes the innocent invitation of a bikini clad blonde beauty asking for help with her boat’s radio or engine. Duh!!!

    Second, it goes almost without saying that your weapons are only as good as the person trained to use them as a shooter and trained equally well as to their tactical use. An example of this comes from the many comments offered by the advisors here. The range of small arms to military grade large caliber weapons recommended is impressive. This includes the use of radar, boat speed, fire hoses and the like. Coordinating all this takes effective training and command experience. If you ask me it is these two qualities that are the primary weapons on any boat. Without them all you have is a lot of tools and some guy who has memorized some Rambo movies.

    Having said all this I do want to add what I consider to be an ideal ‘minimal’ for weapons defense of luxury medium-size (40 to 60 feet) to mega-yachts. I like the comments made earlier by readers about preparing for an assault by Somali pirates using RPG’s and automatic weapons. The scenario definitely gets my inner Steven Seagal percolating! The reader is right about keeping as much distance as practical from the RPG firing range and scooting out of the way with speed first. But if you can’t here is my contribution: I really like the Marine Corp’s M107 as the basis for long range defense. This .50 cal rifle effectively uses multiple types of ammo ranging from tracers, incendiary, armor piercing, etc.

    To become operational you will need three personnel for training on the use of shooting with accuracy at moving targets from 25 meters to a minimum of 1000 meters. Each man will have equal training, however accuracy is about talent not just skill so there should be an order as to who is chosen as the shooter during a time of duress. Another man will serve as spotter/range finder and the third man will run the target boat that is equipped to run by radio control. The third man who is running the target boat is also functioning as the radio man to the helm and as the feeder of ammo or operational parts to the M107 (change of scope, etc., type of ammo, etc.).

    Whatever yacht you are on will have built-in mounts for the gun and range finder on at least 3 different advantageous positions on the boat. You will need these mounts for stability. Shooting or range finding on a boat that is bobbing up and down from the water is hard enough to do without support. Next, the M107 rifle should have the best you can buy ‘open-sighted’ mounted sight. This will allow the shooter to have both eyes open in order to maintain peripheral vision and depth perception while shooting. An example of such a sight is the EOTech 552 Holographic Sight.

    Once your team has mastered the basics during clear weather on calm water the next two levels of training will be operating during rougher conditions and then finally at night. With regular practice it will probably take anywhere from 6 months to a year to get all this down so that the team is on automatic pilot and calm as ice during an assault.

    The operational costs for equipment, supplies, and training should be within $50,000 (American dollars) which the includes the cost of modifying the yacht for portable support carriages for the gun and the spotter equipment. The cost for the target boat will vary. You want to buy a boat that can carry various shadow targets such as personnel and weapons. It should be large enough to simulate a silhouette dodging around at speed at 1500 meters. It should be sturdy or armored sufficiently to take a few hits from the .50 caliber without sinking. But, plan on sinking a few of these boats or at least paying for the ongoing repair and maintenance during training. The budget dollars will most likely go in this category

    Most of all, even if you get really good at these skills…it’s best to sail in safe waters and avoid the world trouble spots.

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