Modern-day piracyAmerican Technology Corp.: LRAD worked as intended in February incident

Published 17 April 2009

San Diego-based American Technology Corporation says its product — long-range acoustic device (LRAD) — was never deployed during the February 2009 MV Biscaglia pirate incident; LRAD is a critical part of a layered defense strategy; it is effective in giving crew members time to determine the intent of unidentified vessels that do not respond to radio calls, and let the pirates know that they lost the element of surprise

Piracy on the high seas is a growing problem, so we have devoted several stories to it and to the policies and gear developed to cope with it. Yesterday we wrote about a recent incident — the February 2009 MV Biscaglia pirate incident (“Piracy Boosts Maritime Security Business,” 16 April 2009 HS Daily Wire) — saying that long-range acoustic device (LRAD), which emits an almost ear-splitting noise when fired at targets, was used unsuccessfully in February incident by former British Royal Marines working as guards on a U.S.-owned tanker the MV Biscaglia.

We were wrong to make that claim about the LRAD. San Diego, California-based American Technology Corporation, creator and seller of the LRAD line of products, contacted us to point out the inaccuracies in the story, so here is a more accurate version of events — and a fuller discussion of the LRAD system.

The company’s investigation of the incident showed that the unarmed security force on board was not aware that pirates had boarded the ship, never deployed LRAD or any of its suite of nonlethal capabilities, and jumped overboard (probably hoping to be rescued). “It appears that the principal of the hired security placed the blame on LRAD in an effort to cover for his firm’s failings in this incident,” Robert Putnam, speaking on behalf of American Technology, told us (see pictures taken taken of MV Biscaglia during the incident).

Putnam writes that LRAD is a critical part of a layered defense strategy. It is effective in giving crew members time to determine the intent of unidentified vessels that do not respond to radio calls. He notes that vessels at up to 3,000 meters can be hailed and warned using LRAD’s powerful directed sound system and multiple language capability, guaranteeing that warning messages are clearly heard and understood. If pirates continue their approach, LRAD’s debilitating warning tones “provide an annoying and deterring sound that has proven successful in fending off attackers on multiple occasions,” Putnam writes, including three years ago when the Seabourn Spirit was attacked in these same waters, and earlier this month when a Japanese destroyer deployed LRAD to successfully deter a pirate attack on a Singaporean tanker (see a YouTube newsclip from Asian News Network regarding the incident).

The company says that when a ship shows that it is aware of an impending attack by deploying LRAD, in most instances, the pirates conclude that a warning has been sent to coalition forces in the area. By employing LRAD, the crew make it known to the pirates that they have lost the element of surprise and that they are prepared to make it as difficult as possible for them to get on board. If armed sentries are aboard, it is essential to determine intent before opening fire on an unidentified approaching boat.

Preventing piracy requires a vigilant crew and a layered and diverse defense strategy,” Putnam says. “We believe LRAD is an essential part of the solution that will expedite the world’s military and commercial shipping fleets taking back the high seas from 21st century pirates off the Horn of Africa.”