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Random Thoughts On Piracy Summit (I have to talk about guns a little ;) May 1, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in Industry News, Piracy & Maritime Security, Risk & Risk Management.
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In reflecting upon the Piracy Europe even in Hamburg that I attended last week, I was struck by a few things that were said and proposed.   The speakers were generally very good although the material is getting a bit old at this point.  With piracy at near 2007 levels, security vendors are scrambling to convince shipping companies that they are still needed.  Selling on Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) seems to be the new way of business development.

With regard to the security vendors, there appeared to be two distinct perspectives on how to stop pirates.  Neither seemed appropriate.  One company had a rep get up and show a picture of himself with a Barrett .50 cal SASR (special application scoped rifle) (shown in the pic above with the very skilled, handsome and smart USMC Sniper..yeah its me).  The intimation was that if you have larger guns, you have more ‘firepower’ and thus better security.  This is a very simplistic way of thinking about security and demonstrates one of the challenges of maritime security.  Security is not about technology…it is about people, strategies, and tactics.  Tools (such as weapons) are useful but only if employed correctly.  You can read the whitepaper “weapons and tactics in the prevention of piracy” here. This “goons with guns” approach was not well received and quite frankly, I felt it perpetuated what the attendees think of American security…knuckle-dragging, goons with guns. Blackwater is alive and well in the minds of most of those who attended the event. There was another company that then began a discussion with some people about the ‘overkill’ of the weapon displayed and how “bolt action” rifles were all that was needed to protect ships. Their position was that automatic weapons (they were really talking about  semi-auto but that is another story) and large caliber weapons were too much firepower.  This perspective is as much (if not more) flawed than the first.  While security is about people, strategies, and tactics, engaging in a gunfight with pirates armed with AK-47s, PKMs, and RPGs using bolt action rifles is near suicide.  Based upon my own background and training, I can say with some degree of confidence that my own skills with a bolt action rifle are better than most.  I still probably shoot several thousand rounds per year in a bolt action gun.  That being said, it is very difficult to engage a moving target on rolling seas with a bolt action gun.  The transition between shots as the bolt is actuated makes it difficult for quick follow upshots.   You can read more about the difficulty here in the awesome post: “Realities of Precisions Marksmanship from a Ship”.  The long and short is that the company is endangering lives by suggesting that bolt guns alone are sufficient to deter pirates and protect vessels.

I would suggest that many security companies (not all..there are some very capable and sophisticated groups) would be better served by investing more time understanding the ideas behind security and the appropriate application of tactics and tools to accomplish the mission.  Larger rifles in untrained hands are dangerous as are insufficient weapons in trained hands.  The balance lies somewhere in the middle…as I said at the event…security is about more than goons with guns fighting other goons with guns…

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