No Time for Complacency: a GHOST of a Solution to Maritime Piracy

Modern Russian warship

(DGIwire) — Last year saw a significant drop in international piracy threats, due to the falloff in Somali-related attacks on Africa’s east coast. Unfortunately, the slack has been taken up on the other side of the continent. In January 2014, 55 miles off the coast of Gabon, five pirates boarded a liquefied natural gas carrier—only to be frightened off when the crew raised the alarm and blew the ship’s horn.

Also in January, the Greek-owned MT Kerala vanished in Angolan waters south of the Gulf of Guinea before reappearing farther north in Nigerian waters. The Kerala was about 57 miles southwest of a Nigerian oil terminal and was missing almost 13,000 tons of its diesel cargo. To facilitate the theft, the pirates allegedly disabled the ship’s identifications system and communications equipment, and used paint to conceal its identifying markers.

Experts say pirates near the Gulf of Guinea primarily hijack vessels to siphon off the crude oil onboard; at the same time, serious threats to human life are emerging. For example, on December 17, 2013, a Ukrainian captain and Greek engineer were abducted from their oil-carrying ship off the Nigerian coast. Nigerian pirates released the two men three weeks later after an unknown ransom amount was believed to have been paid.  Experts warn that pirates will continue their attacks on shipping, especially those vessels perceived to be vulnerable.

Although there is no way to eliminate this problem, there are a number of ways to reduce it. One option is to implement a best-practice counter-piracy strategy that includes a risk assessment of every vessel, route planning and monitoring. Other possible tactics include having companies share intelligence and information, reporting incidents to the International Maritime Bureau, using privately contracted armed security teams, and utilizing protection from naval task forces patrolling in high-risk areas.

The problem also underscores the need for technologies such as the ones currently being created by Portsmouth, NH-based Juliet Marine Systems. A leading developer of innovative maritime transport systems, Juliet Marine’s goal is to solve and serve the needs of the commercial, surface warfare, submarine warfare and special operations communities.

To that end, the company has developed GHOST, a high-speed attack craft specifically designed to protect vital waterways from terrorism and piracy. One comparison often made is that GHOST is a type of attack helicopter on water. Using supercavitation technology and high-performance jet engines, GHOST achieves unparalleled high speed and hull friction reduction. Its large fuel capacity allows for long-term missions, and its heavy weapons payload capacity ensures it can be properly stocked with weapons to meet any potential threat.

Gregory E. Sancoff, President and CEO of Juliet Marine, says, “Anti-piracy methods must be put in place to protect ships, their cargo, crews and their families. The maritime community needs to be alert to the threat of further attacks, as pirates have shown that their numbers might be down but they certainly cannot be counted out.”

Kevin Kinsella, founding parter of Avalon Ventures and first venture investor in Juliet Marine says, “The tide will be turned on high sea pirates when out of the fog a radar blind stealth Ghost bears down on them at 80 knots, bristling with precision weapons aimed at their black hearts. Probably a feeling similar to what an 18th Century merchantman felt when a pirate fast frigate, flying the Jolly Roger, appeared from the horizon, bearing down on them. Avalon backs novel technology platforms.”

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