There’s an alarm, and people are panicking. You hear shouting, then gunfire. Pirates are attacking you. Nowadays, it’s far from pieces of eight and talking parrots. And Captain Jack Sparrow won’t be here to save you.
Swords and swashbuckling are probably the first things that come into your mind when you think about pirates. But this isn’t a movie.
You might be on that luxury cruise you’ve always dreamed of, or exploring in a yacht. But your peaceful afternoon could go from heaven to walking the plank. Pirate attacks are more common than you think, and most often, they target cargo ships. But some companies refuse to report them, in fear of rising insurance premiums.
But pirate attacks happen. And it can be a terrifying, life-changing situation to find yourself in. How dangerous are pirate attacks? What equipment do pirates use now? And should you fight back, or hide?
Pirates have always been around. The golden age of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries has given us the timeless stories of Blackbeard, skulls and crossbones, and a swashbuckling sense of adventure.
But modern-day pirates have swapped swords and cannonballs for AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and even cell phones. Hotspots include the waters off Somalia, with these pirates gaining increasing news coverage in recent years. But the pirate attacks in parts of Southeast Asia are less well-known, and even more deadly. Particularly off the coast of Bangladesh and the Malacca Strait. So be ready, and take these steps to help survive.
Step 1 – Listen to whoever is in charge, or hide.
On any ship, follow the captain or crew’s directions. If a pirate attack is happening, and no one tells you what to do, do not go looking for friends or family. Find a room, lock the door, and hunker down. Stay quiet, and turn the lights off. And make sure you hold onto something. The ship may move at full speed, in random directions, trying to evade capture.
Step 2 – Quietly call for help.
If you have found somewhere to hide, keep calm, and stay quiet. If you have your phone with you, try to contact someone for help. The sooner the authorities know about the situation, the better. During the attack, crew members might not have time to call for help, so quietly try to contact or message someone who isn’t on the ship.
Step 3 – Wait it out.
It’s a tough thing to do, but it is the safest option. You will have no idea if, or where the pirates are. You won’t know if they’re armed or not. And if you are hiding, you don’t want to give away your location to a pirate. The best thing to do is stay in your room and wait till an all clear signal is given, or someone finds you.
Step 4 – Stay low.
If you need immediate help, stay low to the ground, and look around for a crew member or security guard. This is a risky option, and you should only do it if it’s absolutely necessary. A pirate could find you, and who knows what would happen next. Modern pirates sometimes kidnap, murder, and mutilate their victims, in addition to looting ships.
Step 5 – Don’t be a hero.
Just because you’ve seen pirates in the movies, it doesn’t mean you are Steve Zissou or Steven Seagal. If you aren’t trained or armed, it’s really not a good idea to take the fight to the pirates. Like we said, you could be taken hostage, thrown overboard, or killed. Some things are not worth fighting for.
Throughout history, the biggest reason why pirates attack ships has always been money. It’s no wonder that most of the reported pirate attacks have been on cargo ships, as the cargo could be valuable to the pirates. There have been reports of one group of pirates stealing tons of fish, amounting to $50 million, during their careers.
So how likely is it that pirates will attack your ship? Well, estimates show that from 2010 to 2019, there were 2,670 pirate attacks worldwide. So, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not very likely to happen to you, but it’s not impossible.
Maybe the best step is prevention. If you’re going on a cruise, you could choose a ship that isn’t going through unsafe and notorious areas for piracy. And if you do decide to go there, consider packing an emergency pirate survival kit with spare water, food, and pepper spray.
But if you’re still feeling worried, maybe it’s best to stick to the beaches and mountains for your next holiday, OK?
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- “Pirates: A Reality Check – 9 Pirate Myths Examined”. Blum, Matt. 2008.Wired.
- “Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy” 2021. eunavfor.eu.
- “Cruise Secrets: How Ships Are Armed To Protect Against Pirates Revealed”. Allcock, Beth. 2019. express.co.uk.
- “Pirates Attack Cruise Ship”. 2005. cbsnews.com.