Recently the UK announced that ships sailing under Britain's flag will be permitted to carry armed guards on some perilous routes to combat the threat from pirates. Click here for more on that story. David Cameron, PM of Britain, stated, “The evidence is that ships with armed guards don't get attacked, don't get taken for hostage or for ransom, and so we think this is a very important step forward”
This announcement made me start to wonder about what role AIS can play in combatting piracy. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) recommends that the AIS remain active during a piracy event but also states that the master can disable the AIS at their discretion if the voyage is under threat, or in other words, before a piracy event takes place. EUNAVFOR and NATO have since amended this advice. They now recommend that AIS should be left on throughout the piracy High Risk Area as a safety precaution as this will allow the counter piracy naval forces in the area to track the positions of vessels in real time. AIS transmissions should be restricted to ship’s identity, position, course, speed, navigational status and safety-related information only.
I wonder if adding a component to the position report in an AIS message, like Message 1, that was modified to indicate if “armed forces” are aboard, would deter pirates from attempting the attack in the first place. Considering the best outcome is to avoid piracy altogether, it would make sense to add more deterrents. Reports have indicated that pirates are now able to monitor vessel position reports but now they would also be cautioned that the vessel had armed guards aboard, possibly causing them to re-evaluate their attack.