As the MAERSK incident brought to the public eye, piracy is still an ongoing threat and problem. Not only do large commercial ship's with commodities for payloads have to be on the lookout, but also "white-boats", private yachts. It is not uncommon for pirates to think that a yacht will have large sums of cash or valuables on board, but also ransom worthy VIP's and crew. Just a few weeks ago, four Americans were killed in a pirate attack on a 58ft sailboat. Even these small boats are susceptible to piracy from desperate thugs. I would not think a 58ft sailboat, run by Christian missionaries (this was probably not a brand new Hinckley, Hylas or Oyster) and was probably not thought of as high value, but maybe an easy target.
Just a few days ago, a private security company was able to scare off pirates before anything horrible happened. (source)
Private security firm Naval Guards Ltd successfully rescued their Dutch clients on board M/Y Capricorn after it had been overrun by pirates in the central Arabian Sea yesterday. The crew of the 21-meter M/Y Capricorn had contracted Naval Guards Ltd to provide armed escort for their eastbound trip from Djibouti in the western Gulf of Aden, through the Arabian Sea.
Naval Guards’ Operations Chief, Thomas Jakobssen, explained to gCaptain that the 42-meter escort vessel Marshal-5 had been shadowing the Capricorn at a distance of approximately 100m when both vessels were attacked simultaneously by the Somali pirates. Reacting quickly, Capricorn’s crew fled to previously rehearsed hiding spots on the yacht, buying them valuable time as their rescuer’s fought off the pirates.
After a fierce exchange of gunfire between the pirates and the escort vessel, there were no injuries reported on either side, and only minor damage to the vessels themselves. With a clear firepower advantage however, the Naval Guards quickly gained control of the situation and the pirates gave up.
“The pirates are becoming more aggressive”, Jakobssen explained. ”Our team was on board a grey ship with military markings in very close proximity to the Capricorn. These pirates were likely on their way home empty-handed and desperate for whatever they could get.”
This boat had obviously thought it a good idea and was able to afford the price of private help. I'd say it was a good investment! Even with a strong, multi-national naval presence in the area, there is a lot of water to cover, and relying on the authorities to get there in time is not always possible. Not to mention the considerable complications of a navy "babysitting" pleasure craft; should they send a naval ship to protect a $75mm boat? How about a 30footer? How much force are they allowed to use? etc.
The Triton did a very informative write up of the situation after the deaths of the 4 crew, and they discuss many tactics and possible solutions. Some considerations for running the vessel including turning of anything to broadcast your location (AIS) and not giving agents (marinas, customs, etc) in the area details about your travels, as that information may be sold to pirates.