Tag Archives: Anti-Piracy

Possum Anti-Boarding System: Filling the Void in Piracy Response

First released by Naval-Technology, September 29th, 2014

Matrix Remote Sentinel Systems’ new product line, Possum, promises to augment lookout and threat response tasks with tactical defence capabilities by introducing a ship-mounted, local and remote-controlled, non-lethal Capsaicin fog release and propeller fouling system to deter unauthorised boarding and stop approaching small craft.

According to Michael J. Scott, founder and inventor of Matrix and the company’s new Possum anti-boarding system series, “all past efforts at combating piracy have been chasing a global problem, never to get ahead of it. A radical rethink of what part of the problem to solve opens for the first time the possibility of getting ahead of the problem.”

The Possum line, which is scheduled for production in 2015, grows out of the company’s namesake remote data transmission technology for the maritime domain, Matrix. The Matrix system promises a cure to human error in threat detection and augments vessel monitoring and control, according to the manufacturer.

Remote eyes and ears on board

Matrix offers the ability to remotely and covertly see, hear, communicate with, and take remote control of a client vessel, 24/7/365, world-wide, in port, at anchor and on the open seas.

The system’s primary purpose is to communicate data and video from ship-to-shore-to-ship. It is capable of monitoring perimeter access, bridge functions, engines, propellers, refrigeration systems and cargo systems, among others.

Matrix is managed through a proprietary base-station with screen interface in the bridge. It links directly to Inmarsat fleet broadband satellite for remote data acquisition and provision allowing real-time transmission worldwide.

The system also integrates into the vessel’s radar, PA and video system. It can communicate with wireless camera and sensor technology up to 5km away. Data is transmitted back to land to display on a standard web browser at the ship owner’s office.

Matrix has also planned its own land-based monitoring centre to which ship-owners can outsource vessel function and data monitoring, allowing land-based staff to monitor ship operations 24/7. Matrix’s engineers can work with the ship-owner or operator to design a customised control and recovery system linking the vessel to the land-based monitoring centre, allowing expert staff to remotely take control of the vessel, engines and steering, in the event of a hijacking or other crisis.

Possum: Filling the void in threat response

Although the Matrix system, according to its developers, proves vessels can achieve close to 100%, 24/7 detection and monitoring, a need still remains to stop attackers should they attempt a hostile boarding. After discussion with potential clients and investors seeking something more to provide tactical defence, Matrix developed its new Possum line. The product is aimed at the merchant navy fleet, one of the primary targets of pirates.

Possum is a non-lethal anti-boarding system designed to close the tactical response gap in Matrix, completing the overall concept of total surveillance and deterrence, while integrating into the main Matrix system for global control. It aims to provide a simple and effective solution for stopping attackers and attack craft without lethal force, all at less than 15% the cost of armed guards, according to the manufacturer.

However, the Capsaicin cloud will be visible and thus avoidable for non-target parties navigating outside the immediate area. Capsaicin is heavier than air and will settle and disperse in the sea after deployment.

Protocol for use will recommend having all crew inside a secure area prior to discharge. Post-use, any residue can be hosed away from the ships exterior to prevent accidental contact with crew or passengers.

The Rapid Growth of the Algerian Navy

The Algerian Navy has been on a buying frenzy in recent years, amassing a significant maritime force. In September 2014, representing the culmination of a longer term procurement project, Italy’s Orizzonte Sistemi Navali (OSN) delivered Algeria’s new flagship, an 8,800-tonne amphibious assault ship called the Kalaat Beni-Abbes. But newer projects than OSN’s are currently underway. A shipyard in Saint Petersburg, Russia is building two new Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines for Algeria, while two MEKO A200-class frigates, three F-22P Zulfiquar-class frigates, and two Tigr-class corvettes are being produced for service in the Algerian National Navy at shipyards ranging from Kiel to Karachi.

z classThis vastly outpaces the procurement projects of Algeria’s neighbours. In 1993, Algeria and Tunisia successfully resolved their maritime boundary dispute and have since launched several joint energy exploration projects. Tunisia’s 2010-2011 revolution and concerns in Algeria that the uprising might bring an Islamist regime to power created some uncertainty, but the bilateral relationship remains on the whole quite positive. Although the nearby Strait of Gibraltar has seen some heightened tension between British and Spanish maritime forces, Algeria is not a party to any of these confrontations. In this context, the aggressive expansion of the Algerian National Navy must be rather confusing.

However, it is possible that Algeria is preparing for a significant counter-piracy role. NATO’s Operation Unified Protector devastated the Libyan Navy. Currently, that country’s maritime forces consist of one Koni-class frigate, one Natya-class minesweeper, and two Polnocny-C landing ships. NATO air strikes in May 2011 totally destroyed Libya’s naval bases at Sirte, Khoms, and Tripoli. While the maritime forces loyal to the Libyan government are small in number and poorly equipped, rebels continue to hold a few ports in Libya’s east, though most were freed in a series of offensives during the summer and autumn of 2014. Earlier, in March 2014, one rebel militia succeeded in loading an oil tanker in defiance of the Libyan authorities, prompting the ouster of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

If the Libyan authorities are struggling to secure their own ports, it is conceivable that rebel groups in the country’s eastern regions could engage in piracy in future years. Such a situation would jeopardize Algeria’s economic growth as it seeks to become a major energy exporter to Europe and Asia. In March 2014, Algerian officials announced plans to increase oil and natural gas production by 13% to 220 million metric tonnes of oil equivalent in two years. The resulting increase in tanker traffic on North Africa’s coast would present plenty of prime targets for Libyan pirates.

Yet it remains unclear whether it is indeed a counter-piracy role that is envisioned for the Algerian National Navy. Algeria is not officially cooperating with Operation Active Endeavour, which is NATO’s counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation force in the Mediterranean Sea, though five ships assigned to the NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group did make a port visit to Algiers in September 2014 prior to joining Active Endeavour. In order to avoid conflict from emerging between Algeria and Libya over the security of international shipping routes, it may be necessary for NATO officials to aggressively pursue a closer relationship with both countries.

Through the Mediterranean Dialogue, NATO established an Individual Cooperation Program (ICP) with Israel in 2006, which allows for Israeli participation in Operation Active Endeavour and other mutually beneficial initiatives. Other ICPs were completed with Egypt in 2007 and Jordan in 2009. Securing ICPs with Algeria and Libya, however, will be an uphill battle; Algeria has participated in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue since 2000 but Libya has yet to even respond to a 2012 invitation to join. Nonetheless, it is still an effort worth attempting as it may help to avoid much hardship and conflict in the future. For now, Algeria seems to be bracing for impact.

Paul Pryce is a Research Analyst at the Atlantic Council of Canada. His research interests are diverse and include maritime security, NATO affairs, and African regional integration.

This article can be found in its original form at Atlantic Council of Canada.

A Comprehensive Anti-piracy Strategy

Second Prize Winner, 2015 CIMSEC High School Essay Contest

The issue I would like to address in this essay is piracy. Piracy has been a threat to the safety of the seas since the seas were first used for transport and it has been a danger ever since. From the Barbary Corsairs to the privateers of the Caribbean, pirates have found ways to succeed or even thrive no matter the situation. For years pirate skiffs from Somalia have been attacking marine traffic to hold the ships and/or their crews for ransom. These brazen attacks have drawn the attention of the media and even, in the case of the Maersk Alabama, Hollywood. Of course any security issue that comes to the attention of the general public has first passed through the halls of numerous defense ministries across the globe so it should come as no surprise that before, during, and after these events, efforts were made by various navies including the US Navy and a coalition task force from the European Union to combat this growing problem. In this essay I would like to address what they have done and how it could be done better and in a more sustainable manner.

The primaryMQ-4C Triton BAMS UAS approach was taken thus far is to use large surface combatants such as frigates and destroyers as escorts for merchant ships as well as touring African nations and training their respective navies in counter-piracy operations. These measures, when combined with better safety measures taken by commercial vessels, have been extremely effective since 2012 and attacks off Somalia have become almost vanishingly rare at this point in time.1 This being said, these measures are fairly expensive both in money and in combat forces and while the threat off the Horn of Africa has been put into remission temporarily, the underlying issues that lead to the growth of piracy in the region remain.2 Thus if the governments responsible for this crackdown on piracy wish to continue to suppress piracy without devoting significant monetary resources and a handful of large surface combatants to the region a change in strategy is required.

Currently the platforms responsible for this mission are surface combatants and Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft or MPRAs. These platforms belong to three multinational forces and four single state task forces are deployed in the region.3 This, in my opinion, is overkill. While the current system has worked, it is large and inefficient and when the political will runs out this bureaucratic nightmare will be one of the first things to go. Thus there is a need for immediate change.

First of all, the platforms now being used for security operations are not ideal for the job. The P-3s and other manned MPRAs used for wide area maritime surveillance in the area are high value assets in the navies of their respective countries and can be used for missions as diverse anti-submarine to search and rescue missions. In contrast, the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial System was designed without the anti-surface and anti-sub capabilities of most MPRAs and focused instead on long endurance patrol of large bodies of water. With an acquisition cost only 68% of the P-8A (the US Navy’s current MPRA)4 along with lower operational costs, the Triton is the clear choice for maritime patrol in low threat environments such as the coast of Somalia.

As for surface combatants, the frigates and destroyers currently allocated for these missions are large and often significantly over-armed for confrontations with pirates in small motorboats. An alternative would be smaller platforms, both manned and unmanned, which could provide sufficient armament and speed to effectively combat the threat while requiring significantly less time, money, and logistical support.

The manned platforms suited to this task that are available for use today are the Cyclone patrol ships, eight of which are currently forward based in the Persian Gulf, the Mk. VI Patrol Boat, and the Mk. V Special Operations craft. These craft could be used as a rapid response force, responding to threats at speeds of between 35 knots (the Cyclone) and 50 knots (the Mk V) with Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (or ISR) support from Triton UASs in the area. Of course these platforms unfortunately lack the persistence afforded by larger displacement surface combatants, which is where the Unmanned Surface Vehicle comes in. While the manned platforms listed above are an ideal and sufficient force to deal with crises such as the successful hijacking of a ship, they lack the ability to stay on station in the shipping lanes for long durations. Having these vessels in position to intercept any threats detected by airborne search radar is essential to prevent hijackings before they happen. The US Navy as well as a number of others have invested in the development of USVs primarily to protect large combatants from swarms of small, hostile boats armed with short range anti-ship missiles. Unfortunately the USVs currently in inventory are not armed but models in the near future will be.

With all these niches filled, a comprehensive anti-piracy strategy begins to emerge. First, a small, manned contingency response group, based in the gulf and rotated through ports in Yemen and other friendly nations will be constantly in the area to safeguard against crises. Second, the unmanned surface element will patrol threatened areas regularly to defend shipping against small-scale attacks and will be constantly on station, ready to intercept threats if and when directed to do so. Finally, the Triton element will provide a persistent “eye in the sky” for surface elements.

Piracy is an issue, both off the horn of Africa and around the world but as we have seen in the past few years it can be beaten. I believe that with a force such as the one described here, navies around the world could use the advantages of new technology to fight this age old threat.


1. US Office of Naval Intelligence, Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly Report for 814 January 2015, pp. 2 Table 1, Available on-line:  http://www.oni.navy.mil/Intelligence_Community/piracy/pdf/20150114_PAWW.pdf 

2. Jon Gornall, Somali Piracy Threat Always on the Horizon, 16 December 2014, The National

3. PLA-N: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asiapacific/8486502.stm 

JMSDF: http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/piracy/ja_somalia_1210.html 

Russian Navy: http://sputniknews.com/military/20150102/1016471195.html 

CTF 151: http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=41687 

NATO TF 508: http://www.mc.nato.int/ops/Pages/OOS.aspx 

EUNAVFOR: http://eunavfor.eu/ 

4. US Government Accountability Office, Defense Acquisitions: Assessment of Selected Weapon Programs,  March 2013, pp. 109, 115, Available on-line: http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653379.pdf 

 About the Author

Griffin Cannon is a senior at the Vermont Commons School in South Burlington, Vermont. His interests include spending time with his younger siblings, the outdoors, tennis, and skiing. He finds military and political issues fascinating and spends time every day keeping up to date on the defense world. As a graduating senior he plans on attending university at the Naval Academy or on a NROTC scholarship. Griffin hopes to pursue a career in either engineering or defense policy after serving in the Navy. 

Forecast 2015: Maritime Challenges in the Indian Ocean

Guest Post by Vijay Sakhuja

What could be the trend lines for 2015 in the Indian Ocean? A quick survey of events, incidents and trends in the Indian Ocean during 2014 suggests that the region witnessed cooperation, competition and inclusiveness among the littoral states.

Three baskets could be identified: geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic, to help forecast trends in 2015. However, a caveat is in order i.e. these baskets can spring a number of surprises, given that ‘prediction is a risky business’.

IORA: Moving from Australia to Indonesia
In the geopolitical domain, the region remained peaceful and pan-Indian Ocean multilateral organizations such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) were proactive and provided the platform and leadership to address issues of common interest among the partner states. The Perth Communiqué released in September 2014 reinforced the Association’s commitment to ‘building a more stable, secure and prosperous Indian Ocean region’ and promote the IORA’s six priority areas of cooperation. The regional navies met under the IONS banner and addressed a number of common security issues confronting the region.

Later in 2015, the IORA baton will pass from Australia to Indonesia who would continue to carry the great work done by the earlier Chair – India. The new government in Jakarta led by President Joko Widodo has endorsed the importance of maritime matters through the establishment of a new Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and announced the doctrine of ‘global maritime axis’ (poros maritim dunia). In addition, South Africa, the next Vice Chair of IORA, will prepare to take the leadership role in 2017. These provide ‘continuity and purpose’ to the IORA.

China and the Maritime Silk Road: Increasing footprints in the Indian Ocean
China would continue to make attractive offers to Indian Ocean states and seek support for the MSR. Its forays in the Indian Ocean can potentially sharpen difference between China and India and may even lead to these powers becoming more assertive.

During 2014, the Indian Ocean geostrategic environment, though peaceful, was a bit tenuous. The presence of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean created unease in New Delhi. Though predicted, it surprised the Indian strategic community and the Indian Navy is beefing up capabilities to respond to the Chinese forays in the Indian Ocean.

India was also ruffled by the Chinese Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative and its growing popularity among a number of Indian Ocean states particularly Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. New Delhi believes that the MSR can potentially help China consolidate its naval / maritime strategy of access and basing in the Indian Ocean in support of PLA Navy’s future operations.

Continuing US Anchor
The US will continue to be the strategic anchor and security provider in the Indian Ocean and its role welcomed by the regional countries to ‘correct security imbalances, challenge the hegemony of any dominant power and ensure regional stability’.

Likewise, the UK decision to permanently position a number of power projection platforms  in the Persian Gulf prompted New Delhi to recall the idea of  Indian Ocean ‘Zone of Peace’ and withdrawal of extra regional naval powers from the Indian Ocean.

2015: End of Piracy, Attractiveness of Drug smuggling and Re-emergence of Maritime Terrorism in the Indian Ocean
One of the important positive developments in the Indian Ocean was the near total suppression of piracy in the Gulf of Aden / Somali coast. It took eight years for the naval forces from nearly two dozen countries including a number of UN Security Council resolutions, to send pirates back home.

However, another ugly face of illegal activities at sea i.e. drug smuggling appears to have caught the attention of the Indian Ocean countries. During 2014, the multinational forces operating in the Indian Ocean intercepted a number of dhows/boats carrying narcotics from South Asia bound for destinations in East Africa. Perhaps what is more disturbing is that east coast of Africa emerged popular among drug smugglers from Colombia. Kenyan President Kenyatta’s initiative to oversee the destruction of a vessel carrying about 370 Kilograms of heroin worth US $ 11.4 million in international market exhibited Indian Ocean countries resolve to counter global trade in narcotics.

The rise of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the new wing of the Al Qaeda, has already raised a new threat whether Pakistan will become a haven for maritime terrorism.

Will 2015 see the idea of “Blue Economy” leaping forward?
The geo-economic environment in the Indian Ocean witnessed the emergence of a new concept ‘Blue Economy’ led by Seychelles and Mauritius. The idea is resonating among a number of Indian Ocean littorals including Australia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, South Africa to name a few. The leaders are committed to the sustainable development of living and non-living marine resources to enhance food and energy security.

Will 2015 ensure better Search and Rescue Coordination?
Perhaps the most traumatic and heartrending events in 2014 were the tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 in the southern Indian Ocean, which still remains a mystery, and the more recent loss of Air Asia flight QZ 8501 in the Java Sea. These were stark reminders of the need to develop robust search and rescue (SAR) mechanism in the Indian Ocean. Yet, these incidents exhibited the Indian Ocean countries’ commitment to provide ‘public goods at sea’ and a number of navies deployed their navies for SAR.

Dr Vijay Sakhuja is the Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Maritime Foundation. He can be reached at director.nmf@gmail.com.

This article is courtesy Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi and originally appeared at http://www.ipcs.org/article/china/ipcs-forecast-the-indian-ocean-in-2015-4797.html It is a precis of the larger document of the same name, that is part of the IPCS’s ‘Forecast 2015’ series. Click here to read the full report.