I predicted this development on this site a year or two ago in a related thread. It's a very logical response for the shipping
companies, especially since the guards have all the advantage in terms of position and exposure, and public opinion is overwhelmingly on their side.
Right now, the pirates don't really need to be killed, if live rounds from small arms fire splashing around them and putting holes in their foredeck is enough to make them reconsider.
If the pirates are desperate enough to begin larger-scale, mulit-skip attacks to overwhelm the ship's defenses and accept a casualty rate (which I think is their most obvious counter-tactic at this point), then the ship's guards must quit aiming simply to intimidate and do anything they must to keep those bare feet from touching their deck
. But that's a very large raising of the stakes for the pirates, and I doubt it will develop to that. Which of them will be willing to try to climb up to the deck
, completely defenseless, when all a guard (or cook) has to do is lean over the rail and pump a slug in the top of his head
? Too much like shooting fish
in a barrel.
As a gesture of civility, ships with armed mercenaries should hoist a flag and/or sound an alarm
giving any would-be attackers fair warning of what they'd be getting into. (I know this sounds like old pirate movies, but I'm not being cute here: I'm serious. It's only good sportsmanship to show that your ship is assuming an aggressive stance to any possible attacker).