Britney Spears Vs. Somali Pirates: British Merchant Navy Blasts Singer's Music To Repel Attackers

By Josh Lieberman on October 29, 2013 7:26 PM EDT

lrad
The British Merchant Navy blasts Britney Spears' music through LRAD systems, like the one pictured above, to ward off Somali pirates. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

The British Merchant Navy is using an unusual weapon to ward off Somali pirates: they're blasting the music of Britney Spears. Merchant navy officer Rachel Owens told Metro that Somali pirates steer clear of British commercial supertankers off the eastern coast of Africa when Owens and her crew play, at ear-splitting volume, "Oops! I Did It Again" or "Baby One More Time."

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"Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most," said Owens. "These guys can't stand Western culture or music, making Britney's hits perfect."

The Merchant Navy plays Spears' music through a Long Range Acoustic Device to repel the Somali pirates. LRADs can blast sounds as loud as 162 dB. That's about 30 dB higher than the threshold of pain for most people. The systems aren't only used as a sound weapon; they can also be used as long-range loudspeakers during search-and-rescue operations, for instance. Their sound can reach over two miles. 

As the Atlantic Wire points out, although Spears' music "might be the music that irritates Somali pirates most, Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) defense systems have been in use for a while. LRADs blast walls of sound which bring people to their knees, and have been used to quell riots and deter pirates in the past." In 2011, for instance, the Spirit of Adventure cruise ship used LRAD to ward off pirates in the Indian Ocean. 

So it isn't really the Britney Spears that's repelling the pirates -- anything played at that volume would drive intruders away. And as the Atlantic also notes, an LRAD system would be pretty clear evidence that there's armed security aboard the ship, so Somali pirates would be likely to stay away.

Somali pirates killed 97 people in the waters off of eastern Africa between 2005 and 2012, according to a World Bank report. During this period, hundreds of Somali pirates have died, with pirates extracting $385 million of ransom. Attacks have been down in the area this year, with just 10 Somali pirate attacks in 2013, compared to at least 70 last year.

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