A propeller arrester developed for protecting shipping in high-risk piracy areas by Channel Islands-based piracy and maritime security specialist Merchant Maritime Warfare Centre, is to be showcased in the Solent on September 14 onboard the SS Shieldhall.
Merchant Maritime Warfare Centre, established last year by piracy expert Nick Davis and a number of security and former military officials, said the device created an impenetrable security perimeter around a vessel which, when crossed, caused failure of the attacking vessel’s propulsion, rendering it disabled.
Rigged to heavy-duty booms and deployed prior to entering high-risk areas, the propeller arrester released lines of strong buoyant rope which floated on the surface of the water, without interfering with the deploying vessel’s own propeller.
According to the company, the device can be deployed quickly with minimal manpower, remaining effective when left unattended regardless of vessel speed and design, and irrespective of the cargo carried and prevailing weather conditions. Once transit has been completed and the threat of attack has passed, the propeller arrester can be wound back onto drums and stored onboard.
“The propeller arrester offers, for the first time, a non-lethal countermeasure that is capable of stopping single and multiple-vessel attacks by preventing the attackers getting close enough to effect a means of contact prior to boarding,” said Mr Davis. “It is reusable, repairable and a fraction of the cost of having an armed or unarmed team onboard.
“Until now, shipping companies have had a major disadvantage in that, by the time onboard countermeasures to protect against unlawful boarding have become effective, the pirates are already onboard. That is not the case with the propeller arrester which, if used as part of a layered defence system and operated by well-trained crew, will enable ships to prevent attacking vessels getting close enough to attempt boarding, or will at least make them such an unattractive target that the pirates will look for alternatives.”
During the exercise on September 14, the SS Shieldhall, a cargo steamship built on the Clyde in1955, will be targeted by pirates on a skiff which will subsequently be caught up in the propeller arrester while communication is maintained with naval and coastguard agencies. Merchant Maritime Warfare Centre will recreate a full briefing as if the ship were about to enter the Gulf of Aden, demonstrating crew training, intelligence briefings, and watch-keeping using its new bridge-installed security radar.