FOR up to 30 days at a time, Australian and international crew are trapped on ships as big as cruise ships with tens of thousands of cattle bound for far-away lands.

Jack Carew spent three years working as a deck hand, responsible for the welfare of the cattle.

It was an environment he described as 'a prison'.

Jack Carew worked on an export ship that was attacked by pirates.
Jack Carew worked on live export ships for three years. Rob Williams

"There was no contact with the outside world, no wifi, no reception, no nothing," he said.

"There was a satellite phone in the bridge of the ship which could be used, but it was super expensive, and when you did use it you had a bridge full of officers that could hear every word," he said.

"Sometimes (all the time), it felt like a big floating prison.

"I'd like to say that I got used to it over time, but that would be a lie. It was tough, the movies that were on your hard drive were all watched about halfway through the trip.

"Nonetheless, most of the time, when you weren't working, it was boring.

"Until of course you crossed the equator that is, that big red line that travels around the circumference of the earth.

"As soon as you cross that bad boy, you're in pirate territory."

Pirate attacks were the norm north of the Equator.

They wanted money, cigarettes, valuables and hostages.

Ipswich businessman Jack Carew spent three years working on live export ships between the Middle East, Russia and China.
Ipswich businessman Jack Carew spent three years working on live export ships between the Middle East, Russia and China. Jack Carew

"All ships have an old-school live feed being printed off on the bridge of all known pirate attacks that were currently happening around the world and this thing was a constant report," Jack said.

"It was actually amazing standing there watching this thing print out report after report of pirate attacks.

"So I had my fair share of first-hand stories and seen the battle scars to be convinced that these pirates were out there," he said.

"Some captains of the ships would black out every window and door on the ship, so at night time we weren't a big floating beacon.

"Other captains picked up three or four security guards in the Maldives on the way past, who brought on their own guns and body armour.

"Or, some captains, decided to take action into their own hands with dummy guards.

"But mostly all ships put barbed wire up around the sides of the ship as well as setting up super high-pressure fire hoses, the idea being, when pirates started attacking with their AK-47s and RPGs, we would get out our water guns and try to hose them off the ship."