The ship noticed the pirates lurking about seven miles away. When the ship passed, the pirates picked up speed and came within about two miles before reconsidering and heading off. Luckily, my brother's ship is what they consider a "hard target" - the ship would be hard to take, and they were aware of the pirates straight away. Armed men on deck may have figured into the pirates' reconsideration as well.
Pirates off the coast of Somalia have frequently been in the news in recent months, and not without reason: my brother says the ship sees pirates more often than not. Only two days ago a ship was taken less than 100 miles (160km) from their position.
While this BBC article argues against carrying arms on merchant ships, my brother sees the guns - shotguns, nothing more - as a visual deterrent more than anything. The article doesn't take into consideration the realities of living on such a ship, and in some ways takes the side of the pirates. Merchant marines have little sympathy for the pirates. "I understand why they do it," says my brother. "But at the same time I feel that if you are willing to [hijack] someone to possibly kill them for ransom money then you get what's coming to you. Piracy used to be punishable by death."
The rules of engagement are complicated, and the situation is drawing significant media attention. For now, I'm just glad my brother's ship isn't an appealing target for pirates. Hopefully it will stay that way.