• Indian Marine Commandos board a suspected pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden (Getty)
The first device has been fitted to a commercial vessel due to sail within weeks through the Gulf of Aden, off the pirate stronghold of Somalia.Dunoon-based ProForm Marine believes the non-lethal laser will prompt pirates to abandon their assault and seek an easier target. It was developed following a rising tide of attacks on cargo vessels and luxury yachts, especially off Somalia, which lies beside one of the world's main trade routes to the Suez Canal. The Gulf of Aden is known as "the gates of hell"ProForm said the weapon could also be used to defend other vulnerable sites from attack, such as airports, nuclear power stations, and oil and gas plants. It said it had also had interest from farms in South America.The laser, which costs £55,000, affects the vision of anyone on which it is trained for up to 30 minutes and makes them feel nauseous and disorientated.
• The Scots-made, £55,000, SeaLase has been fitted to a ship to protect it from pirates in the Gulf of Aden
ProForm said SeaLase uses three lasers – red, blue and green – which together cannot be filtered out by protective glasses.Paul Kerr, its director, said the device could be used at a range of up to more than two miles, but was most effective at less than one mile. He said: "The effect is like staring into the sun."The former Royal Marine commando said the laser offered a cheaper alternative to armed protection. He said: "Increasingly, the response to protect commercial interests has been the use of military escorts which has inevitably contributed to an increase in shipping costs and impeded delivery, for example of food aid." He added: "For example, 90 per cent of the World Food Programme's shipments arrive by sea, and their ships have required a military escort for the last two decades, which is a considerable expenditure." Mr Kerr said the device would be carried by a 500ft-long ship through the Gulf of Aden next month, but declined to give further details.ProForm Marine, which employs five people at its base at the Holy Loch Marina, near Dunoon, formed a new joint company, Lasersec Systems, to devise the laser with Finnish firm Arctic Photonics.It now plans to add a heat-seeking camera to the laser to give advanced warning of approaching intruders to help users direct the laser beam.Mr Kerr denied the laser would provoke pirates to greater violence.He said: "We are protecting our clients without killing or maiming anyone. "The laser makes life so miserable for the pirates, they will look for an easier target.it defuses intended acts of piracy at a safe distance without escalation of violence."He also claimed the laser was "internationally legal", with its use not needing specific approval.The device has been shortlisted for the John Logie Baird Awards for innovation. Isabell Majewsky, chief executive of the GO Group, which organises the awards, said: "The product is extremely current and has international reach considering recent events."
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