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FACTBOX - Anti-piracy tactics used by bulk ships

LONDON (Reuters) - Somali pirates are likely to increasingly target ships taking coal and other commodities over the Indian Ocean because smaller bulk vessels are an easier target than large oil tankers and trade to Asia is booming.

A 75,000 tonne vessel carrying South African coal at current prices of $85.00 a tonne has a cargo value of $6.4 million.

Companies are trying a variety of anti-piracy measures short of engaging the pirates in gunfights.

HOW DO PIRATES OPERATE?

Pirates are well-equipped and have invested profits in their business by buying satellite navigation systems, speedboats and grenade rocket-launchers.

Pirates operate in speedboats at short range from larger ocean-going mother ships. They depend on the element of surprise and aim to get within rocket-launching range - 200-300 metres - of a target vessel before the crew is aware of an attack.

EVASIVE MEASURES

* Alert crews are the key, shippers and security experts say. Pirates need to be spotted and evasive action taken long before they are within rocket range.

* Vessels are recommended to sail at least 600 nautical miles from the shore to avoid attack.

* Captains are advised to drill their crews in simulated attack to practise evasion techniques.

* Maritime organisations advise ships to put barbed wire and barriers around the ship and dummies to simulate lookouts.

* A distress call to naval forces should be made when a pirate boat is sighted.

* Ships are urged to speed up and manoeuvre to increase the choppiness of the water around the pirates’ speedboats.

* Pirates allow 30-45 minutes on average for boarding and will give up if boarding proves too difficult, the IMB says.

NON-LETHAL WEAPONS

* South African coal shippers have installed a sonic device with a 3 kilometre range on a trial basis which has successfully halted attacks on tankers and naval ships off the African coast.

* The LRAD device, made by American Technology Corporation ATCO.O and costs $175,0000, can warn off pirates not responding to radio calls and disorient them preventing boarding but causes no permanent harm, shippers said.

* “LRAD is not a sonic death ray, it gives the crew time to react,” ATC media head Robert Putnam said.

* for a graphic on how the LRAD works please click on: here.

ARMED RESPONSE

* Maritime organisations have urged ships to leave an armed response to foreign navies.

* Some coal vessels from South Africa are already using armed guards in accompanying launches in coastal hotspots.

* Owners and charterers for the most part are reluctant to have ex-special forces armed men on their ships, although some are already discreetly doing so, shippers say.

* Armed, ex-Special Forces guards on ships could provoke pirates into an escalation of violence, shippers say.

* Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea off the West African coast have shown willingness to use deadly force against crew and no desire to hold them for ransom.

Compiled by Jackie Cowhig; editing by James Jukwey

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