Piracy at Sea: How to Negotiate with Pirates?

Being attacked by sea pirates when at sea is without a doubt one of the worst fears of every ship leaving a dock. Recently, the cases of maritime piracy have gone up tremendously with as many as 93 pirate hijacks having been reported. Even though pirate attack is by no means a new thing but the current rate of attacks call for a new method of dealing with the situation.


One of the first things that come to mind in case pirates take over a ship is to deal with the situation and if situation permits, negotiate with them. (Though we recommend to sailors never ever try to negotiate with them in the first place. The modern pirates have all the latest weapons and care a damn about human life).

However, it’s not as easy done as said. When it comes to how to negotiate with pirates, it is important to keep in mind certain points, which are to be carried out with utmost care and caution.

1.       Keep Patience and Cool

First thing to remember is to keep patience and have a stable mind. Getting impatient with pirates is not going to get anyone anywhere; in fact it may risk your life. A ship hijack situation is definitely one of the most stressful times that any ship owner or a shipping company has to deal with but that’s one time when you are truly tested for your ability to keep your cool.

Always remember that if you are dealing with a pack of excessively violent pirates, your one wrong move could cost someone his life.

2.       Negotiations Should be According to the Demand

Pirates when hijack a ship do it for various reasons. For some, the motive is to steal as much material as they can. They can leave with as little as hardware from the ship, cash of crew members etc. and may not even need to negotiate with. But there are others who come with a lot more on their mind especially if the ship happens to be carrying valuable merchandise like arms, weapons, artifacts etc.

Depending on kind of material on the ship, the area where the hijack occurs, strength of pirates and what is at stake, the negotiations should vary. If there is a lot at stake, the negotiations can be minimal and quick because then the motive remains to get back all the shipment without any harm to it or the crew members.

3.       Know about the details of Pirate Attack

When negotiations with pirates begin, it is important to know the most about the pirate attack. The numbers of pirates, their motive of attack, their intentions, what they plan to take, their potential to harm the crew, arms they carry etc are some of the things that affect the nature of negotiations.

When ships with huge shipments like arms and artillery are attacked, the motive of sea pirates is to get a huge ransom. They come with large amount of arms and a mindset to let the hijack continue for even months. Some hijacks by Somalia pirates in past years have been on similar scales. In such cases, careful negotiating is the best option to retrieve back the most with minimal damage.

4.       Let them Feel in Control

One of the key ways of negotiating with sea pirates is to let them feel that they are in the control of the situation. This not only can usher them into a bubble of complacency making them laid back in their formations but also prevents pirates from taking an irrational action out of anger or frustration.

5.       Don’t show signs of weakness

No doubt, anyone negotiating with the pirates has to be a nervous wreck for various reasons. But letting pirates know who vulnerable you are in real is definitely the wrong move. Showing signs of weakness can change the mode of pirates’ actions along with an increase in their demands. This could put people and products on the hijacked ship in even more danger, if that is possible. However, don’t overdo it for it may backfire.

6.       Find a common ground

While negotiating with sea pirates, talking can be much easier when you find a common ground to work on. This can make the process much quicker and if you are lucky, the ship can be released with not as much ransom and minimal damage to life and property.

7.       Take help of Professionals

Sometimes ship owners prefer to carry out negotiations on their own instead of taking some help. However, getting in touch with a professional consultancy company that deals exclusively with maritime piracy negotiations can cut down the process time, lower the risks and considerably reduce the losses.

8.       Think about the Safety of people Onboard

When carrying out negotiations with sea pirates, the foremost thing on mind of every negotiator is safety of people onboard. So it is important that the negotiations carried out should be done in a way that would not lead on to further harm to the people. Also, lengthy negotiations could endanger people’s life. So it is best to keep them as short as possible. Know what pirates want, make your intentions clear and get on with it quickly.

9.       Don’t rule out other ways

While negotiating seems like the easiest option out, most people think that it’s not the correct way to deal with maritime piracy. Having said that, the fact also remains that sometimes negotiating with pirates is the only viable option available. Continue trying to capture the pirates while negotiations are in progress.

Recently, a team was able to fend off an attack of Somalia pirates when they were close to an Indian ship in Lakshdweep waters with help of a hovering aircraft. Such quick steps can prevent a minor attack from taking a huge form.

When it comes to maritime piracy, there is no sure shot way as to how to negotiate with pirates. However, little things can be kept in mind to tone down the damage as much as possible.

 Marine Insight - http://www.marineinsight.com