Fast Rescue Boats and Piracy
Anders Björkman does not like Fast Rescue Boats at sea


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If you Google on Fast Rescue Boats, you'll find the Heiwa Co web page on first Google page. That page explains why a Fast Rescue Boat, FRB, is useless as a life saving appliance, LSA on ships at sea in spite of being a SOLAS requirement. Reason is that an FRB is difficult to launch from a seagoing ship and impossible to retrieve at sea and that seamen may be killed in the process. FRBs are not really supposed to be retrieved at sea! They are best used from shore!

FRBs are used to transport 'anti-pirates' soldiers around as seen right. Imagine if this happened to it!

On the other hand Fast Rescue Boats are very popular by shore or offshore based pirates everywhere, e.g., Somalia, Nigeria and Indonesia. The FRBs are stored ashore or on a mother ship at sea and is easily hidden there. When a fishing boat or similar at sea reports a suitable merchant ship to attack, the FRBs are launched by the pirates that are just normal poor bandits and not seamen at all employed by the real criminal ashore.

In 24 hrs they can reach a target 500 miles away from shore at 25 knots assisted by GPS, etc. The armed pirates easily embark the loaded cargo ship with low freeboard and take the crew hostage. It can happen everywhere. The FRBs return quickly to shore or mother ship if the attack fails and are hidden for the next attack. In the past the pirates just robbed the crew or ship of some personal valuables and belongings. In serious incidents they even killed the crew and took over the ship and sold the cargo in, e.g. China. In less serious incidents the crew was just put in a life boat and abandoned. Lately, e.g. Somalia, the pirates take over the ship and ask the owner for ransom money to hand the ship back.

Fast rescue boats used in very calm weather in the Indian Ocean to transport 'anti-pirates' soldiers to a released from pirates ship, i.e. long after the pirates left. Luckily nobody drowned or was shot

The probability of being attacked by pirates is small and apparently getting smaller. The number of successful attacks on vessels crossing the Indian Ocean has fallen from one in every 4 000 to around one in 25 000. This trend is expected to continue into 2013 though, of course, the threat will never completely disappear.

Heiwa Co, concerned with Safety at Sea, has advised officers, crew and ship owners in ISM procedures what to do in case of a piracy attack. It is not really a safety at sea matter, but a security at sea matter, and, if pirates or robbers come aboard, rule #1 is to offer no resistance to avoid fatalities. Rule #2 is to report to the Owners. Rule #3 is to protect crew, passengers, cargo and ship. Ship officers and crew are not trained to defend their ship against armed robbers and pirates attacking them, so Rule #1 is very useful. And the ship should be insured against the risk of piracy anyway, under war or general conditions, so there is no reason whatsoever for the crew to be heroes! They should just follow normal ISM job descriptions. It is evidently a good idea to immediately pay the pirates any ransom demanded to free the crew, cargo and ship (and claim back the ransom under General Average and from underwriters) than to be stubborn and stupid and leave the ship/cargo/crew at pirates' whims.

How to prevent piracy attacks? Barbed wire and water cannons aboard do not work against armed pirates! Armed guards aboard? First it is illegal! Merchant ships are not permitted to carry arms and soldiers! Secondly, it only escalates the situation; the pirates fireing rockets until the ship stops (and the armed guards are killed). Western governments think that sending warships to high risk areas will stop the pirates at sea. The pirates with their FRBs and GPSs are much smarter than that and can easily avoid a few warships and still attack a cargo ship. Western governments have some confused idea that pirates 2009 are some sort of 1700 Caribbean buccaneers sailing around looking for Spanish galleons. The real pirates today are just shore based persons looking for money ... using poor people and FRBs! One solution is evidently to gather the merchant ships in convoys - like WW2 - and protect them by the warships.

The warships are even equipped with their own FRBs (!) that are supposed to be launched by navy sailors and then to chase the pirates at sea! As explained many times by Heiwa Co FRBs are not really useful for anything but shore based life saving and … piracy! Don't blame Heiwa Co for the latter! Warships' crews have also already killed innocent seamen and fishermen in their attempt to fight pirates so the best proposal is to send home the warriors.

So what's the real solution to the piracy problem apart from convoys? Evidently the solution is ashore, where the pirates and the FRBs are located 99% of the time. Piracy at sea is not a maritime safety at sea ... or even security ... problem of any kind. Sending warships to solve the problem at sea is pure idiocy unless they are used to protect convoys of merchant ships. The problem can only be solved ashore, where the pirates and FRBs are located. It is a social, economical and political question. In the meantime Heiwa Co offers its Rule #1: offer no resistance to avoid fatalities. And use only FRBs for lifesaving from shore. And pay any ransom immediately to get away! It is similar to any business risk and loss of earnings.

Anders Björkman

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Disaster Investigation 3.21 - more about idiotic fast rescue boats