What is the height of the ship’s decks? Where are the stairways and the passageways or corridors situated? What sort of lighting system has been installed on the ship? Does the ship have any ladders or ropes along the side of the hull to help rescuers climb on board?
Smashing Windows or Bulkheads as Necessary
Do the hatches and portholes open inward or outward and where are they located? How thick are the windows? It is also important for the rescuers to learn what type of glass was used in constructing the windows. This is to allow them to know how easy or difficult it will be to smash them should this become necessary and what tools they must take with them for the purpose.
In addition, rescuers will probably have to break down parts of the bulkheads. So they must be acquainted with the materials used to make these bulkheads whether it was steel, aluminum or some other material. Once again, such information will determine the equipment the rescuers should take with them before setting out to board the hijacked ship.
The Problems of Insertion onto a Hijacked Ship
Insertion, the term for getting a rescue team on board, can be difficult, regardless of whether the vessel is under way, or riding stationary at anchor.
Rescuers climbing up a ship’s side from below are at risk from hijackers above them on the deck. Firing guns downwards is much easier than firing upwards, particularly when hanging on a rope or ladder with only one hand free for defense. The goal is to insert the team without the hijackers on board realizing until too late that this has been done.
Normally, rescuers choose the stern of the ship as the place to board. Their intention is to surprise the hijackers by acting quickly and as silently as they are able.
Playing Tricks on the Hijackers
One or two cunning tricks can help. If the rescue team arrives in a small, fast boat, they can appear to have fishermen on board. In reality, of course, the “fishermen” are rescuers in disguise and therefore seem to be no danger to the hijackers. After all, fishing boats are a common sight at sea, sometimes quite far out to sea.
The bogus fishermen may wave, shout, ask for help, perhaps give warnings of approaching storms – anything and everything that can distract or catch the hijackers’ attention and prevent them from realizing the ship is, or is about to be, boarded.
Another way of distracting the hijackers if the ship is reasonably close inshore, is for members of the rescue team to pretend they are passengers taking a day trip out at sea from a holiday resort on a nearby coast. They will be dressed in beach clothes to make themselves look convincing.
Girls Have a Trick of Their Own
Some of the girls among the “holidaymakers” have a special trick they can play. Since hijackers are usually male, the girls dress up in provocative bikinis to attract their attention. And while they are ogling the girls and flirting with them, they are unlikely to be thinking about much else.
This gives the rescuers a good chance of getting on board the ship without being noticed. By this means, they gain the advantage of surprise, so that by the time the hostage takers realize the deception, they are already under attack.
Rescuers Arriving by Helicopter
Rescuers can also be dropped by helicopter. This is a noisier way of doing it and will undoubtedly attract a lot of attention. But to make sure they don’t give the game away too soon, the helicopter approaches the hijacked vessel flying very low over the sea.
At the right moment, the pilot pulls back on the controls and the machine rises up into the sky, over the stern. Suddenly, rescuers are abseiling fast down ropes directly onto the ship’s deck. Once the rescuers are safely on board, they have to move fast to find the hostages.
This, though, is no easy task. The inside of a ship is a mass of stairways, passages and cabins. All of them have to be searched and many of them may contain one or more hijackers willing to fight to the death. Some passageways are very narrow, so that rescuers may have to bend low or even crawl along the floor.
The End for the Hijackers
Once the hostages are found, the first thing is to get them to a place of safety elsewhere on the ship. As for the hijackers, the ship they seized is now a trap with very few avenues of escape.
Sometimes it is possible for them to negotiate for their freedom, but in most situations, there is nowhere for them to go and either way, the hijack is over and they must either surrender or be killed.