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Things You Should Know About Special Warfare Teams

You’re sailing along on a merchant ship when suddenly military-looking figures appear, armed to the teeth. No need to panic – they aren’t hijackers, but special forces troops tasked with protecting ships like yours from modern-day pirates and other maritime threats. Forget the mental image of swashbuckling buccaneers – today’s sea bandits are a serious menace equipped with fast boats, heavy weapons and inside information.

 Lucky for you, elite naval units like the U.S. Navy SEALs and the Chinese PLAMC marines are patrolling high-risk zones, ready to take down pirates and keep merchant shipping safe. Keep reading to learn more about these modern-day saviors of the high seas.

The Merchant Navy Doesn't Actually Have Special Warfare Teams

The merchant navy itself isn’t a military organization, so they don’t have their own special forces units. However, special operations forces from various navies around the world work closely with merchant fleets, particularly those operating in dangerous waters like the Gulf of Aden. These special forces provide armed security, deter pirates, and respond to attacks.

U.S. Navy SEALs

The U.S. Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land Teams, or SEALs, are highly trained for missions like counter-piracy and maritime interdiction. They frequently escort U.S.-flagged merchant ships and board suspicious vessels. SEALs are regarded as one of the world’s premier special forces.

Royal Marines

Great Britain’s Royal Marines have protected British merchant ships for centuries. Today, they deploy on anti-piracy missions, boarding merchant vessels under attack and detaining pirates. The Royal Marines are respected for their professionalism and success in difficult operations at sea.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps (PLAMC)

China’s naval marines, or PLAMC, have deployed on anti-piracy missions, including escorting Chinese merchant ships through dangerous areas. As China’s naval power grows, the PLAMC is gaining valuable experience through these real-world operations far from home. Working with merchant fleets helps the PLAMC develop into a formidable amphibious force.

While merchant fleets themselves aren’t military, special forces around the world help keep global trade flowing by protecting these unarmed ships from threats like piracy. By working together, merchant navies and special operations forces can ensure the safe passage of goods across the seas.


Special Operations Forces That Work With the Merchant Navy

As a merchant mariner, you may encounter special operations forces working to protect ships from piracy and other threats. These elite military units are highly trained for dangerous missions at sea.

United States Navy SEALs

The SEALs are the U.S. Navy’s primary special operations force. SEALs deploy around the world to conduct direct action missions, including counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations. SEAL teams often work with merchant ships transiting high-risk areas like the Strait of Malacca or Gulf of Aden.

British Royal Marines

The Royal Marines are the UK’s amphibious light infantry force. Marines have a long history of maritime operations, including anti-piracy missions. Royal Marines may board suspicious vessels or provide armed escorts for British merchant ships. Marines are also trained to quickly deploy and respond to threats against merchant crews.

People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps (PLAMC)

China’s naval marines, or PLAMC, have taken on an increasing role in overseas operations, including counter-piracy deployments to the Gulf of Aden. Like the U.S. Navy and Royal Marines, PLAMC forces may board vessels or provide armed security for Chinese merchant ships transiting dangerous waters. Their presence demonstrates China’s growing naval power and commitment to protecting its maritime interests.

As a merchant mariner, understanding the capabilities of these special operations forces can help put you at ease knowing that highly trained units are working alongside to counter threats at sea. But during an actual incident, be sure to follow all instructions from the military forces on the scene.

FAQs: Joining Special Warfare Teams in the Merchant Navy?

While there are no dedicated special forces units within the merchant navy itself, special operations personnel from various navies work closely with merchant fleets to provide security and counter threats like piracy. If you’re interested in this type of high-risk, specialized work, the military may be the path for you.

Do I need any special qualifications to join?

To join elite special forces like Navy SEALs or Royal Marines, you’ll need to meet high physical, mental and character standards. This typically includes being in excellent physical shape, having a clean background, and demonstrating strong mental toughness, leadership abilities and problem-solving skills. Relevant skills or experience, like maritime training, combat, navigation or engineering, may also be preferred.

What kind of training is involved?

The training for special forces is notoriously demanding. For example, to become a Navy SEAL, you must complete Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, which has a high attrition rate. This includes intense physical training, diving, navigation, demolitions and small unit tactics. Similar advanced training is required for units like Royal Marines. Ongoing training continues throughout a special operator’s career.

What roles and responsibilities do these teams have?

Special forces who work with merchant navies conduct a variety of missions, including:

Maritime interdiction: Boarding suspicious ships to deter illegal activity.

Counter-piracy: Protecting merchant ships from pirate attacks and rescuing hostages.

Security escort: Providing armed escorts for merchant ships transiting high-risk areas.

Counter-terrorism: Conducting operations against maritime terrorist threats.

Surveillance: Conducting reconnaissance and intelligence gathering at sea.

The work of these elite teams allows merchant fleets to operate globally, despite dangers from piracy, terrorism and other threats. A role in one of these units promises a challenging but rewarding career at the cutting edge of maritime special operations.

So when you’re on a merchant vessel sailing dangerous waters, rest assured there are some seriously skilled operators watching your back. Though merchant crews aren’t kicking down doors and blowing up pirate skiffs, the special forces have their back. 

With the world’s navies and marines providing armed escorts and deploying operations to take out threats, sailors can feel confident continuing their essential job delivering goods across the seas. Stay safe and keep on trucking, merchant mariners. The next time pirates mess with the wrong ship, they’ll have some special forces to answer to.

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