Years spent in the Special Boat Service (SBS) planning how to board ships, with the purpose of retaking them from terrorists, showed me how easy it is. The main challenge is getting on board. Securing the bridge and engine room is then relatively simple. Typical crews will not put up a fight if there is a threat to life. Learning how to navigate a large ship is easier than learning how to fly a commercial aircraft into a building.
Several years ago, a British security company, managed by former members of our special forces, won a contract to teach the Somali Coastguard how to board and capture boats fishing illegally in Somali waters. The Somalis, mostly simple fishermen, adapted that knowledge to create history’s greatest piracy empire.
Many years ago, I wrote a novel, The Hijack, describing how a supertanker was captured by terrorists with the aim of ramming it into a port on the south coast of England. The SBS saved the day on that occasion in much the same way as they saved it last Sunday. As a maritime security specialist, I can tell you that very little has been done to prevent vessels like supertankers and LNG carriers from being turned into weapons of mass destruction. Few, if any, these days have adequate security or anti-hijack technology such as remote engine controls.