Sunday, January 24, 2010

Asian Glory - Message to the "Experts"

Photo of a large car carrier from Wikipedia.

A headline from Lloyds list: "Naval experts baffled by recent hijackings" - In the article, (here pdf file) regarding the hijack of a full size car carrier the Asian Glory:
However, the opportunistic hijack of a car carrier took most experts by surprise as they were previously thought to be too challenging for pirates to bother attacking given their high freeboard and relatively high speed.
Evidently these "experts" have taken a quick glance at photos of car carriers such as the one above from Wikipedia. Based on this photo someone might think," gee, that looks like it would be impossible to climb the side of that thing!"

Here is closer photo of the same type of ship.

A Coast Guard Inspector from Marine Safety Detachment Santa Barbara looks over the damage after the Freighter Otello allided with a pier at Port Hueneme, Calif. (USCG Photo)

This is the area near the stern ramp, the area just front of the closest Coast Guardsmen, the near-horizontal section (where the wood is laying) where the hull shape allows the ramp to open, is roughly 3-4 meters or less above the sea. The framework of the stern ramp, in the stowed position, allows plentiful foot and handholds for a boarder.

Here is a link to a photo of the Asian Glory from the stern. This photo shows the same area as above and it also shows that on the Asian Glory this nearly horizontal section is little higher then the stern of the assisting tug.

Another detail the experts have missed during their research is that ladders are installed adjacent to the ramps to allow the crew to have access to the ramps for maintenance. If pirates manage to get on the area shown in the photo, the structure of the ramp itself supplies foot and hand hold for the first two thirds of the trip up the side, for the rest of the trip, ladders are in place to supply access to the accommodation deck.

I don't know how pirates got on the Asian Glory but anyone who is surprised a car ship got hijacked is no expert.

K.C.
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UPDATE: I have copied the below from comments and have put in bold the key points:

I agree that anyone who should be "perplexed" at the Somali pirates' ability to adapt to circumstances might not be the kind of expert he thinks he is.

On the other hand, in my experience, many car-carrier and container ship operators take the line that their ships are, in fact, not vulnerable on account of their speed and high freeboard. Maybe the navies have been deluding themselves, when they accommodated such shipowners by classifying such ships as "low vulnerability vessels", which would not need to tag along in a group transit or in a convoy.

I think this kind of mentality may be the result of too many generic ship security assessments having been pushed out (by shipping companies or their consultants) in the past. The idea that a few quantified parameters can adequately describe a vessel's unique security vulnerabilities, as you aptly point out for the Asian Glory, is ludicrous.

At the end of the day, however, a well placed RPG round (one that actually explodes, as opposed to the 90% duds we see off Somalia) will make speed, freeboard and anti-boarding obstacles mute points unless you've thought about reinforcing the vital parts of the ship as well.

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Some related posts from KC

Practices to Deter Piracy on a PCTC (May 9, 2009)
Discussing Piracy Risk of a PCTC May 8, 2009)
Escorts for Group Transits (May 7, 2009)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Feed Subscriber said...

I agree that anyone who should be "perplexed" at the Somali pirates' ability to adapt to circumstances might not be the kind of expert he thinks he is.

On the other hand, in my experience, many car-carrier and container ship operators take the line that their ships are, in fact, not vulnerable on account of their speed and high freeboard. Maybe the navies have been deluding themselves, when they accommodated such shipowners by classifying such ships as "low vulnerability vessels", which would not need to tag along in a group transit or in a convoy.

I think this kind of mentality may be the result of too many generic ship security assessments having been pushed out (by shipping companies or their consultants) in the past. The idea that a few quantified parameters can adequately describe a vessel's unique security vulnerabilities, as you aptly point out for the Asian Glory, is ludicrous.

At the end of the day, however, a well placed RPG round (one that actually explodes, as opposed to the 90% duds we see off Somalia) will make speed, freeboard and anti-boarding obstacles mute points unless you've thought about reinforcing the vital parts of the ship as well.

Jim Howard said...

On a different subject, could you perhaps post your thoughts on the collision between the Shonan Maru 2 and the Ady Gil?

As I'm sure you know there are many videos of this incident on youtube and elsewhere on the internet.

I'm sure many of us would appreciate an expert opinion as to which vessel had the right of way.

Velu said...

Well sitting on a meandering tanker, an car carrier does look a daunting target for piracy boarding. As a master on a car carrier, you would naturally know all the weak spots, plus I think masters are as a rule, likely to think of the worst case theories.

On the whole, if I was a Somali Pirate in the middle of a sea, on a wobbling leaky dingy, I would probably go for an oil tanker then a speeding car carrier.

Good luck.

Velu

Ken E. Beck said...

Velu,

Thanks for the comments. You are right of course regarding the relative difficulty of boarding a car carrier at sea compared to the "low and slow:" My point is the the gap between the belief that it is impossible to board a car ship at sea and reality of the Asian Glory.Another point is how little expertise is required to be considered an expert.