Maersk Alabama Hit Again by Somali Pirates, But This Time It Has an Acoustic Cannon!

Maersk Alabama, the cargo vessel that was hijacked by Somali pirates back in April 2009, was attacked again. This time, however, the ship was prepared:

An on-board security team repelled the attack by using evasive maneuvers, small-arms fire and a Long Range Acoustic Device, which can beam earsplitting alarm tones, the fleet said. [...]

The owners of the Maersk Alabama have spent a considerable amount of money since the April hijacking to make the vessel pirate-proof, Murphy said, including structural features and safety equipment. The most dramatic change is what he called a security force of "highly trained ex-military personnel."

"Somali pirates understand one thing and only one thing, and that's force," said Capt. Joseph Murphy, who teaches maritime security at the school. "They analyze risk very carefully, and when the risk is too high they are going to step back. They are not going to jeopardize themselves."

The wife of the Maersk Alabama's captain, Paul Rochford, told WBZ-AM radio in Boston that she was "really happy" there were weapons on board for this attack.

"It probably surprised the pirates. They were probably shocked," Kimberly Rochford. "I'm really happy at least it didn't turn out like the last time."


Long Range Acoustic Device? Turns out it's an acoustic cannon (or super megaphone) that produce 150 decibels of sound, causing excruciating headache and ear pain. From Spiegel:

Until now, it wasn't widely known that the US Defense Department was sharing the so-called Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) with commercial cruise ships. The weapon is essentially a small dish that beams hellishly loud noise that is deafening but not lethal. Weighing 20 kilograms and as big as a TV satellite dish, the device looks deceptively harmless. But once trained on its target, it blasts a tight beam of painful siren-like sound.

It's not known how the grinning pirates 160 kilometers off the coast of the Horn of Africa reacted as they suddenly were hit by the LRAD. But they were close, and the closer one is to the sonic cannon, the worse the effect is. It's possible they received permanent hearing damage, but at the very least they experienced an excruciating headache and ear pain to the point that they could no longer see or hear. They also quickly lost the desire to board the ship. Of course, even Captain Blackbeard would have quickly set sail when confronted with 150 decibels of pure noise.

Link 150 decibels, you would be hard pressed to find ear protection that would adequately cover you. doesn't seem like a lot, but that's a base 10 logarithmic value. So 150 decibels is approaching the level of "Space shuttle launch" or "ground zero". Even at 140, you're looking at the loudest recommended level WITH hearing protection. (source: )

Anything over that, and you still could experience pain, and hearing loss. Even for only short term exposure.

In a semi-related thought...Why don't the Somali's just do what the Nigerians do, and make money the old fashioned way? With internet scams about lost princes, and poorly written emails?

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what he called a security force of "highly trained ex-military personnel."

It sounds like Blackwater, which would mean firepower other than small arms and LRAD.
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Nice to see that the Somali Pirates are still being used as media fodder and straw men. Too bad so few people know about their fishing grounds being wiped out and the nuclear waste being dumped off their shores, events that drove these fishermen into desperate poverty.
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Alex, not even industrial ear protection would provide enough defense against this. NRR 30 earmuffs would still have 120 decibels hitting you. anything above 85 is considered harmful.
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Johnny Cat, I would guess that Blackwater (or Xe, as they like being called these days) does 95% of their work with small arms. "Small arms" can mean anything smaller than .50 caliber. The SEAL snipers who took out the pirates back in April were using "small arms".

I'm sure the guns were the main deterrent in this most recent attempted boarding, but an LRAD is not something I'd like to face down.
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The best regular ear protection workgear I sell is reducing the noise only 46dB. You can add earplugs to that, but don't forget dB is a logarithmic scale : 150 dB is a @#$% lot of noise!
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Sitting between two LRADs is the best way, short of being at an actual concert, to appreciate musical subtleties of the band Disaster Area.
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