GSS called in by combined Navies to stamp out Somali Pirates

UK Company GSS called in by combined Navies to stamp out Somali Pirates

Worthing 16th February 2009 – A European navy has recently deployed a Maritime Boarding system which has been developed by Systematic of Denmark with UK based IT security consultancy firm - Global Secure Systems (GSS), and Rajant Corporation of the USA to stamp out the threat of Somali Pirates.

This comes at a time when the International Maritime Bureau recently released it’s annual piracy report confirming the increase in piracy around the world, and particularly a 200% increase off the coast of Africa where there were 111 attacks reported last year, with 49 vessels hijacked. These include the high profile Faina, which has a cargo of T-72 tanks, the Saudi owned supertanker, the Sirius Star, recently released for an undisclosed ransom. This is a very serious issue, not just for ships and their cargo, but for the crew. In 2008 nearly 900 crew members were taken hostage, 32 sailors injured, 11 killed and 21 missing, presumed dead. In January 2009 alone 3 vessels in the region have been hijacked and there have been nearly 20 reports of attacks in the region.

Navies from around the world have formed the Combined Task Force 150/151 in a bid to thwart the pirates and make an important international waterway safely navigable. Whilst the Combined Task Force has been in the region since 2002, there has been a change of emphasis to piracy patrols since 2006.

The challenge for all the law enforcement agencies in the area is the need to intercept a suspect vessel quickly, detain it, board it and establish if it is a hostile, or a non hostile vessel. The actual pirate ships involved in hijacking the Sirius Star and Faina are only small fishing vessels – not The Black Pearl or other “traditional” pirate ships. The days of flying the Jolly Roger are long gone! This needs to be done swiftly to ensure minimum risk to the boarding party. The interception is done by one or more high speed rigid inflatable boats (RIB), with a team of boarding operatives on, launched from a Mother ship. This may be backed up by helicopter, if the Mother ship is large enough to carry one, or calls in this added level of support.

The system is deployed to enable the Navy team to board a suspect Pirate vessel and search for arms or other suspect cargo, whilst providing a live video and voice feed back to the Mother ship. In addition to the real time live feed, data can be sent back to the mother ship enabling biometric tasks like finger printing and photographs to be done in real time. In theatre the Navy has been able to have an Interpreter on the bridge of the Mother ship listening to everything being said on the boarded pirate ship and advise the boarding party, in real time, of what is being said. The result is a much quicker and safer inspection of potential pirate vessels in the region. When used in action the system has helped confiscate rocket propelled grenades and AK-47s machine guns, arrest pirates and sink their vessel before handing the pirates over to the local Coast Guard.

The system itself uses a mix of commercial off the shelf products, with purpose built applications, to ensure the best mix for the Navy of both cost and functionality. Using rugged, secure WiFi equipment from Rajant, a high bandwidth data network can be established very quickly and automatically using unique meshing technology, between the Mother ship and smaller fast moving RIBS, and even helicopters. The key advantage is an increase in situational awareness for command and control.

For operational reason’s we are unable to provide details of the Navy vessel involved.

David Hobson Managing Director of Global Secure Systems said “We are delighted to be involved in such a significant project where at last the problem of Somali pirating can be stamped out. The WiFi meshing technology is a highly secure and cost-effective solution for our client Navy. Used as a core part of the Systematic Sitaware Maritime Boarding system, it has proved its worth on its first engagement in theatre. We already provide secure WiFi equipment to many other security agencies and we look forward to providing these off the shelf solutions for other agencies including emergency responses, civil defence and counter-terrorism, as it can be successfully and inexpensively adapted for different situations.”
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Yvonne Eskenzi - Eskenzi PR