Maritime students simulate pirate attacks

April 23, 2009 2:54:03 PM PDT
The recent Somali pirate attack has brought new attention to an old problem. At the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, students have access to state-of-the-art simulators to help learn how to deal with piracy.

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Students are on the bridge of a container ship in a 360-degree virtual world created by a Russian-made maritime simulator.

They are following the same route, under the same conditions as the ill-fated Cosco Busan before its collision and oil spill with the Bay Bridge two years ago.

But in a matter of keystrokes, the simulator can take students anywhere, from Alaska, to a stormy Gibraltar.

It is an invaluable teaching tool for Academy cadets.

Captain Paul Leyda teaches maritime security, which includes how to deal with pirates.

The simulation shows a pirate's-eye view of a container ship, from the faster, more maneuverable skiffs they use to attack.

"The attack profile is dusk or dawn, typically in Somalia or Somali waters," Leyda said.

Leyda says the small boats are often undetectable on radar, and they have other ways to hide. Leyda says the pirates often climb aboard using ropes and grappling hooks and they might order the captain to slow-down for them under threat of gun-fire or rocket-propelled grenades.

This fall at the California Maritime Academy there will be an entire course devoted to the roots and politics of piracy.

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