How did ships protect themselves from Somali pirates?

The isolation of the enormous oceans of the world meant seafarers throughout history have had to use self-protective measures to deter pirates from attacking their ships. Somali piracy proved no exception.


Deterrence refers to the efforts seafarers take to protect against, avoid or stop pirates from attacking a ship. It is important to distinguish deterrence from suppression. Stopping pirates from hijacking individual ships does not solve the causes of piracy,   nor stop support for piracy on land.

Deterrence measures undertaken by ship-owners, captains, and crews affected by piracy did prove effective against Somali pirates. However,  In addition, ship-owners and cargo providers can bear considerable costs for these efforts, affecting the viability of their businesses.


The Somali piracy epidemic saw the establishment of Best Management Practices that reiterated modern updates of many historic measures, including travelling at high speed, evasive manoeuvres, and crew preparedness.

The Somali piracy epidemic also caused two historic variations on key deterrence measures to emerge:

  • new forms of insurance, and

  • the use of armed guards onboard ships