Are Water Cannon Effective Against Pirates?
Water cannons have been a staple anti-pirate technology within the industry, being recommended in guidelines such as BMP5. This article will cover the pros and cons of anti-pirate water cannons and their efficiency.
What are Water Cannons?
Water cannons are a non-lethal anti-piracy technology aiming to deter and slow down piracy attacks on ships. Steams of high pressured water are fired at pirate skiffs, which can flood and destabilise them.
Cannons are supplied from the ship's fire mains and are best used remotely controlled from the citadel or bridge. Manual usage is advised against in BMP5 to protect the crew as they would be exposed on the open deck during an attack.
Water is fired at around 5000 lpm (litres per minute) at 10 bar of pressure. These cannons can also have different nozzle settings for the extra spread, which can help fight fires in addition to creating blinding effects for approaching pirates.
There are several pros when it comes to water cannons. Firstly, they are easy to install, which means there is a fast turnaround for ships to have extra protection.
Ships can use water cannons in areas where armed guards can not use their weapons, such as territorial waters.
Water cannons may require all of the ship's pumps and additional power during high-risk situations. Commonly, the ship's entire allocation of fire hose is allocated to anti-piracy defence, meaning that if a fire broke out on board, the crew would have to dismantle the pirate defences before reacting to the fire.
The water pressure of the pumps needs to be adequate to have any effect. Palaemon's CEO, Steve Regis, has first-hand experience of this; "Water cannons form a significant part of a ship's anti-piracy preparations. When the water pressure is up to 10 bar and above, it presents itself as a well-hardened vessel. However, I have seen dozens of times where too many outlets have been daisy-chained together, combined with poor water pressure leading to not much more than a gentle cooling spray."
Another downside is that water cannons may not deter some pirates. If the cannons do not affect pirate ships, some pirates may continue their boarding action if they are heavily armed and no guards are there to offer resistance.
"I have seen dozens of times where too many outlets have been daisy-chained together, combined with poor water pressure leading to not much more than a gentle cooling spray."
The crew must be adequately drilled and have a good observation to use the water cannons with maximum efficiency, spot any incoming attacks, and activate the hoses early to let pirates know they have been seen.
water cannons are a tested method of non-lethal ship defence, so they are recommended by international guidelines such as the BMP5. However, for maximum efficiency, like all other anti-piracy technologies, they should be used in tandem with other defences and a well-drilled crew and up-to-date intelligence when sailing through high-risk areas.
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