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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Can you make a ship pirate proof?

January 12th, 2011
10:37 PM ET

"Best management practices." That's what crews use to ward off pirates as they sail through the danger zones on the high seas.  Captains of ships turn on water hoses, place barbed wire on ships, turn on lights, speed, to deter pirates from attacking.

I learned about what's called the citadel.  It's a small, strong room with a thick metal door, no windows.  It's stocked with food, water, communications equipment and a bathroom.  The idea is, if pirates get on board, it's over.  The best action a captain can order is to get into the safe room, the door is bullet proof and just wait it out, and call for help.

Sometimes there are just not enough crew to patrol the ships, so one laughable, but important technique is to take a mannequin out on the deck and have it pose as a guard.  You can't tell what's real or not, in the dead of night, on a boat far away, so the hope is that pirates will take off if they see what looks like an armed patrol.

There are some ships that hire private security guards who are armed.  There is a divided school of thought on this.  Maritime experts and NATO officials I've spoken to say that it's a bad idea because if you shoot at pirates, they will shoot back and the chances of getting crew killed are higher.

Also they worry about the chain of command. Who's going to order security to fire?  The captain?  Do armed guards to it themselves? Who takes responsibility?  What if they fire at genuine fisherman, who can be easily confused with pirates?   They add, pirates just want to take the hostages, not kill them.  On the other hand, some ship owners decide they need armed protection. There have been instances where private security guards have fired at pirates who were preparing to attack the ship, and they have successfully been fended off.

Everyone tells me that the bottom line solution to fighting piracy is not on the seas, but on the shore, on land.  Somalia needs to have a functioning government, stability, an economy.  It's currently a failed state, it's lawless and pirates can do what they want with no fear of consequences out on the Indian Ocean.

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