UK defence technology manufacturer BAE Systems has launched a new device aimed at protecting merchant ships from pirates.

The system can reportedly incapacitate a ship at a distance of 1,000yd without causing permanent injury.

The ‘laser dazzle system’ has been created to help ship owners fend off the pirate gangs following the seizure of a number of vessels off the coast of East Africa.

Military boats have been armed with similar gadgets for years, but BAE Systems is now making them available for use on cruise ships and tankers.

The announcement was made at the Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition at the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands this week.

Other anti-piracy technology unveiled at the exhibit included a radar that can detect a dinghy from 15 miles away and another device that can close down a vessel’s engine remotely.