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#RPG Attack Guidelines (updated v1.1) - 'ROCKET ATTACK STARBOARD' 'TAKE COVER PORT'

The 31st May 2017 saw another attack on a Merchant Vessel using an RPG, whether the attack was Piracy or Terrorist related is unclear, however makes little difference to the Masters and Crews actions to mitigate the risk and defend themselves in an attack.

ASKET have prepared this briefing to support our other guidance and bridge cards and we hope help CSO's, Masters, Bridge teams and crews in the event of an attack.

More free resources can be found here ASKET Free Resources Page

The RPG 7

RPG is a shoulder launched Anti-Tank Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher

The RPG is freely available, cheap to buy ($200 - 400, and a warhead as little as $10) and almost anyone can be trained to use it.

However the weapon is difficult to fire accurately and not very predictable, accuracy from a small boat in any swell, seastate and wind will hinder the firer at any range over about 100m/ 110yds, a range which puts the firer in danger himself from any resulting explosion, so if it is a terrorist type attack it is more likely that firing ranges will be higher and fired towards the hull of a large vessel rather than the bridge.

RPG's have been fired at bridges and superstructures in the past as a tactic to scare crews into submitting to a boarding.

Effective firing range 200 m (220 yds)

Maximum range 920 m (1,000 yds)

The standard round has Armour penetration of around 500mm or 20 inches.

ASKET Guidance

Who and why:

RPGs have been used in the past by Pirates to intimidate vessels crews to give way to a boarding for hijack, the tactic would generally see the bridge or bridge area being fired upon as a show of force, on at least one occasion the RPG penetrated the crew room, failing to explode it caused flooding by bursting water mains.

Although reports are still sketchy it seems that the latest attacks are on the vessel themselves to cause damage whether by terrorist groups or paramilitary groups it is more likely that the vessel will be targeted around the hull or cargo.

Ships Protection Measures (SPM's)

The guidance in BMP4 should be followed when transiting High Risk Areas, and ideas of types of SPM's that can be adopted including chain link fence against RPG attacks.

'The sides and rear of the bridge, and the bridge wings, may be protected with a double layer of chain link fence which has been shown to reduce the effect of an RPG round. Proprietary anti-RPG screens are also available.' (Best Management Practices version 4)

Tests have shown that galvanised chain link fencing around 57mm wide will pre detonate the RPG warhead in anything from 35 - 50% of the time, the resulting explosion will throw shrapnel into the surrounding area and likely blow in bridge windows and causing secondary damage if close enough.

Warheads that do not detonate may be disabled when there nose is damaged or crushed, the idea is that the warhead that does not explode is either damaged by the fence or is caught in the mesh. However the warhead may also bounce off of the fence and fall still armed onto the deck, especially if a glancing blow and not fired directly at the fence.

Careful consideration should be given to the placing of chain link fencing to allow as great a standoff distance as possible to limit the effects of the exploding warhead or not angled such that warheads deflected to detonate on to the deck area which on some vessels may cause secondary explosions.

Situational Awareness:

Whilst in high risk areas bridge teams and lookouts may wish to wear body armour and helmets or at least have them to hand.

Crews are advised to maintain a good lookout by radar and enhanced watchkeepers who are aware of the threat and have been briefed on what to look for, the rocket may not be inserted into the launcher until the attacking boat has slowed down and the firer is in range and feels safe to do so.

It takes around 10 seconds to load or reload an RPG and then the firer will need a few seconds to aim and so this may give you enough time to warn the crew if you are alert.

When in areas where the risk is higher it is advisable to take action in good time even if it is a false alarm, rehearsals should be conducted in advance of entering these areas so bridge teams and crews know what to do.


An indication of the side the threat is coming from should be given clearly and immediately to allow personnel to seek cover, an example maybe 'ROCKET ATTACK STARBOARD' 'ROCKET ATTACK STARBOARD' 'TAKE COVER PORT' 'TAKE COVER PORT'

Bridge teams should take cover away from the side of the threat, and behind something solid and get as low as possible.

Crew should take cover in pre designated areas away from the side of any threat if possible and be prepared to fight any fires caused by an exploding warhead.

Further advice:

SHIP SECURITY - BRIDGE VULNERABILITY STUDY: To determine the effects of weapons fired at the bridge of tankers and to recommend effective ship hardening measures to mitigate the threat - OCIMF, October 2014

More advice is available from ASKET on request, free Maritime Security Bridge cards are available on our website or via the ASKET Maritime Security App (iOS and Android) which contains guidance on training and rehearsals for MASTERs and crew in various situations.

For more information please contact us.

The above guidance is given freely to support those at risk make informed decisions and ASKET can take no responsibility for actions leading to injury or loss.

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