These days when we hear about piracy we think of software, computers,
and the Internet. Maybe we also think about the piracy of songs and DVDs
and the battles their respective industries have been waging to end it.
But this article is about the old-fashioned pirates, those who travel
the open seas, attack unsuspecting vessels and make off with "treasures"
or members of the crew.
Just this month there have been two reported pirate attacks in the Malacca
Strait, which is bordered by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. In the
first attack, 35 pirates, armed with machine guns and rocket launchers,
seized a gas tanker.
While today's pirates may not wear gold hoop earrings and eye patches
and fly flags with the skull-and-crossbones logo, they're just as
dangerous as their predecessors.
"The pirates attacked the ship as it was heading towards Belawan
and ordered it to sail to Dumai. During the journey to Dumai the captain
and chief engineer were kidnapped and taken off the ship ... The hijackers
are negotiating with the ship's owners for their release," said Noel
Choong, regional manager of the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International
Maritime Bureau (IMB).
In the second incident, pirates attacked a Japanese tugboat and kidnapped
three members of the crew, including the captain and chief engineer.
Who, and Where, are These Modern-Day Pirates?
Modern-day pirates, though not likely to carry names like Blackbeard
or Captain Hook nor wear eye patches and big gold hoop earrings, are after
surprisingly similar "treasures" as the pirates of yesteryear.
The Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in Kuala Lumpur, operated by the International
Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB),
defines piracy as:
"An act of boarding or attempting to board any ship with the intent
to commit theft or any other crime and with the intent or capability to
use force in the furtherance of that act ... This definition thus covers
actual or attempted attacks whether the ship is berthed, at anchor or
at sea. Petty thefts are excluded, unless the thieves are armed."
Thus, anyone completing or attempting the above crimes is labeled a "pirate."
Piracy is not only a concern in far-off regions of the world. "It
looks like they (pirates) are becoming very daring and they are moving
away from the normal coastal attacks towards the open sea ... ,"
Choong said. The problem is so prevalent that the IMB puts out a Weekly
Piracy Report to ships traveling in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean
Most Risky Waters for Piracy
The following regions are among the most prone to piracy and the
IMB has put out a warning to ships traveling or anchoring in these
SE Asia and the Indian Sub Continent
India: Chennai, Kandla
Indonesia: Anambas/Natuna Island, Balikpapan, Belawan, Dumai,
Gaspar/Bar/Leplia Str, Jakarta (Tg.Priok), Pulau Laut, Vicinity
of Bintan Island
Africa and Red Sea
Gulf of Aden / Southern Red Sea
West Africa: Abidjan, Conakry, Dakar, Douala, Freetown, Lagos,
South and Central America and the Caribbean waters
Brazil: Rio Grande
Haiti : Port au Prince
Dominican republic: Rio Haina
And the problem seems to be getting worse. Says Captain Mukundun, director
of the ICC International Maritime Bureau, "The incidents of hijackings
have increased dramatically since 2000. These are serious and violent
attacks, committed by organized crime groups. Crewmembers are often abducted
or injured and both ship and cargo worth millions of dollars are often
The IMB reported that pirate attacks have tripled
in the last decade, with 103 reported attacks in the first three
months of 2003, alone. That's the same number of attacks recorded for
the entire year in 1993. And 2004 was one of the
most lethal years ever recorded since the IMB started collecting piracy
statistics in 1990-325 piracy acts and 30 murders at sea were reported
in 2004. Some other pirate facts:
Indonesian waters are the world's most dangerous when it comes
145 people at sea were killed, assaulted, kidnapped or reported
missing as a result of piracy in the first three months of 2003.
Bulk carriers are the vessels pirates are most likely to attack.
Pirate attacks in Asia have gone down in recent months after the
deadly tsunami that hit the region. Experts think many of the pirates
may have been killed or lost their boats, but governments expect the piracy
to come back at full-speed, or even greater than before, in the coming
Fighting Pirates With Technology
Bulk carriers like this one are the vessels most often attacked
by modern-day pirates.
Many of the large transport ships and oil tankers now use satellite-tracking
devices that alert ship owners and authorities should the vessel veer
off course. Cruise ships are a tough target not only because they're so
large, but also because governments provide plenty of protection for the
money-making vessels when they're in port.
Another recent anti-pirate innovation is what's known as Secure-Ship,
which is essentially a 9,000-volt electric fence that surrounds an entire
ship. Should a pirate attempt to board, they receive a strong, but not
deadly, shock while a shipboard alarm sounds and floodlights turn on.
The IMB recommends that all ship owners install this device to ward off
Want more on modern-day piracy? Dangerous
Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas is freelance journalist
John Burnett's firsthand account of piracy as he retells his experiences
of being attacked-pirates, Burnett says, "are often gangs of poverty-stricken
young men (or sometimes women) employed by warlords, organized crime syndicates
and terrorists"-and reveals his intense investigations into this
Anyone who's fascinated by pirates-and the notion that they're still
around today-won't want to miss this one; it's considered the definitive
work on modern-day piracy.
are a Distinct Possibility for Both Coasts of the U.S.
News March 14, 2005
Weekly Piracy Report March 8-14, 2005
Chamber of Commerce: Pirate Attacks