Police special duties
CHIEF INSPECTOR LANCE BROWN, of the Special Duties Unit, Royal HK Police, described how similar units have been developed world-wide following the guerrilla attack at Munich Airport in 1972 and that these units carry out reciprocal training here and in other places throughout the world.
HKSDU has, as its main task, the countering of terrorism, sabotage and piracy plus the protection of high-value cargo from Macau to HK by dynamically supported craft.
He stressed that "prevention is better than cure,' particularly with regard to ships, because of the difficulties in boarding a vessel under siege whether underway or at anchor. Some of the ways in which attacks can be mounted were explained, with typical cases such as the Achille Lauro, Suihara Maru, and Lindiga Ivory being used as examples of how the assaults were carried out.
CI Brown explained that preventative measures are seldom able to provide absolute security and even what appears to be the best of systems needs regular review. The benefits of awareness and attention to detail on the part of all hands was stressed.
Advice on how to prevent piracy attacks was illustrated with slides and some of the tell-tale signs of approaching attackers were explained. There is no substitute for a good deck watch, particularly astern, and good lighting. Bolt cutters to sever lines, grapnels, etc., should be handy. In this part of the world there are many problems concerning refugees in the South China Sea and such situations may not always be what they appear. The distress situation is often used to stop a ship whereupon the persons alleged to be in distress turn out to be pirates. Some useful tips were provided on these possibilities.
Sabotage by one's own crew members was highlighted as being one of the most difficult to counteract. Measures to be taken in the event of an attack were suggested, the overriding theme being to keep calm, avoid antagonising the attackers, try to establish a rapport with them, and in the event of a counter assault, get down with hands on head. The conclusion was to try to make the security match the threat so that the latter is pre-empted or becomes so difficult that it is aborted.
This talk, and the discussion which followed, serves to indicate just how vulnerable the average merchant ship is to piracy, hijack and sabotage, and how complacency on board can be a major benefactor to would-be attackers. Vigilance is of the utmost importance.
Contributed by Captain E. D. Robson, FNI
Seaways June 1989