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Innovation Blog

Somali Pirates Revisited: Innovators to the Rescue

By Shlomo Maital

 In January,  I wrote a blog about dealing with Somali pirates who seize ships for ransom (Somali Pirates: China to the Rescue), and about how China appeared far more resolute in dealing with the problem than other nations.

   Now a BBC World Service News report suggests that where the vast U.S. and E.U. navies have failed,  innovation may have succeeded.

   A brain exercise:  What innovation might help a cargo ship thwart an attempt by pirates to seize it?

    Answer from a Texas university:  Sticky slippery goo.   That’s right — the Batman invention, seen in Batman comics and movies. 

     The “goo” is non-toxic and when sprayed on the hulls and decks of cargo ships, it makes it hard to hijackers to walk or climb.  

     Shipping firms are reluctant to pay the high costs of armed guards:  up to $50,000 daily, especially at a time when shipping rates are at all time lows, owing to the global recession.  Moreover, they are subject to law suits, if they use lethal force, even though the pirates themselves seem little concerned with lawyers.  At the moment, the cost-benefit analysis shows it pays to pay the ransom rather than spend money to prevent hijacking. 

     Can the inventors of “slippery sticky goo” save the day, where national governments have been humiliated? 

    Time will tell.  

    I wonder if the inventors of the ‘goo’ are Batman fans. 

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Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
March 2010
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