Marines to Build Mock Container Ship for Counter-Piracy Training

By Stew Magnuson
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — The Marine Corps is planning to build a three-story mock container ship on a plot of land at Camp Lejeune, N.C., so special operators can practice clearing out pirates from hijacked vessels.

The 12,000-square-foot land-locked ship will have a wheelhouse, aft rudder room, captain’s quarters and a saferoom, or citadel, where crews lock themselves up after pirates have boarded their ships, said Bill Fondriest, a Marine Corps training systems deputy program manager.  

“It will present just about every challenge a marine could face going on a ship boarding,” he told National Defense.

Piracy has been a scourge in recent years with Somalia-based raiders boarding numerous types of ships and boats in the seas off the East Africa coast. Once aboard, they demand ransom for both the crews and the cargo.

Navies from several nations, including the United States, have patrolled the waters during the past few years in an effort to curtail piracy.

In one of the most famous cases, the crew of the MV Maersk Alabama in 2009 managed to render the ship inoperable and sink the pirates’ speedboat as it was being taken over. The pirates took the ship’s captain as a hostage in a lifeboat. Navy SEAL snipers killed three of the pirates and ended the incident.

Fondriest said the mock ship will have areas where marines can practice scaling onto the ship from below and fast rope onto the deck from above.

The project is expected to save the service time and money, he said. Currently, units that require visit-board-search-seizure certifications must travel and arrange for a boat to train on.

“It will be close to home. They can train right here and they don’t have to go out to a boat,” he said. They normally cannot do live-fire training at sea, either, which the new facility will accommodate.

The interior will be constructed of safe foam and wood to prevent bullet ricochets. Marines will shoot at pop-up targets. Doors will allow for breaches using physical force, shotguns or thermal methods.

Col. Daniel J. Lecce, Camp Lejeune commanding officer, said the facility will primarily be for Marine Corps Special Operation Forces, who are stationed there. But “it will be available for anybody who wants to train in that type of mission.”

Fondriest said the mock ship is undergoing final design reviews and he expects work to be completed on the facility in about 18 months.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, Homeland Security, Live Training

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