Skip to comments.Piracy At Sea Reaches Record High
Posted on 07/24/2003 8:42:16 AM PDT by Loyalist
Not since the 17th and 18th centuries, when cutlass-wielding outlaws terrorized the Caribbean, has piracy been so rampant on the world's oceans.
Acts of piracy soared worldwide in the first six months of this year, reaching an all-time high of 234 attacks and claiming the lives of 16 sailors, according to a report released yesterday by the London-based International Maritime Bureau.
The new figures, which amount to a 37% increase over the same period last year, represent the worst six-month period for piracy since the bureau, a specialized division of the International Chamber of Commerce, started compiling statistics in 1991.
Piracy in Southeast Asia has reached epidemic proportions. Modern buccaneers, armed with machine guns, rocket launchers, satellite phones and global positioning systems, are ravaging crowded shipping lanes and threatening nearly half the world's shipping.
The highest number of attacks was recorded off Indonesia, which accounts for more than 25% of the world total with 64 incidents. They include 43 ships boarded, four hijacked and attempted attacks on 17 other ships.
"Levels of violence have increased significantly as well," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
In recent cases, a ship's officer was fatally shot in the head on a tanker off the Philippines port of General Santos. The crew of a vessel that ran aground off Nigeria was abducted and held for ransom. And pirates fired a hail of bullets at a chemical tanker off Indonesia in an attempt to force it to stop, wounding a ship's engineer in the process.
Just last Sunday night, pirates tried unsuccessfully to board a bulk carrier as it sailed through the narrow Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
An alert sailor noticed the small, unlit speedboat as it pulled alongside and set off an alarm just as a boarding party prepared to attack. The pirates fled.
As many as six ships a week are attacked worldwide as pirate syndicates, which frequently resemble international business conglomerates, have brought a terrifying new sophistication to the ancient art of buccaneering.
The IMB's piracy centre has recorded cases in which South Korean and Chinese gangs have planned pirate attacks, hired Indonesian thugs to carry them out and used Burmese dockhands and Thai businessmen to help dispose of the cargoes.
Modern pirates loot everything from cash to entire cargoes and their methods vary from region to region.
In the Arabian Sea, boarding parties are sometimes armed with rifles and anti-tank missiles, while in West Africa, pirates frequently carry knives and raid ships in dugout canoes.
In the Far East, piracy is often controlled by organized crime syndicates and, in some cases, has direct links to rogue military units and corrupt officials.
Asian pirates have perfected techniques of stealing entire cargoes and ships, then re-using the stolen vessels with false documents and names to steal more cargoes from unsuspecting shippers.
In February, an Indian court sentenced 14 Indonesian pirates to seven years' hard labour each for their part in the 1999 hijacking of a Japanese-owned ship, the Alondra Rainbow.
Brandishing knives and guns, the pirates boarded the Japan-bound freighter at night and made off with its US$20-million cargo of aluminum ingots.
The 17-man crew were put on a raft and drifted in the Andaman Sea for 10 days with little water or food. They were rescued by Thai fishermen.
The hijacking ended two weeks after it started, when the pirates and their stolen ship were captured in a shootout with an Indian navy corvette.
"India's decision [to prosecute the pirates] marked a rare move by a national court to assume jurisdiction over crimes committed in international waters and sets a precedent, which we hope will deter similar crimes," Mr. Mukundan said.
Of all the world's waters, the most dangerous are the island-studded seas off Indonesia and the Philippines. And of these, the South China Sea and the heavily travelled Strait of Malacca, crowded with up to 600 ships a day, are the most pirate-infested areas.
Few pirates have been caught in Indonesia. Those brought to trial receive minimal sentences.
The Piracy Reporting Centre says Bangladesh is the second-worst focus of pirate activity, with 23 attacks recorded since Jan. 1.
Nigeria and India had 18 pirate attacks each in the same period.
Some estimates place the cost of the attacks and other maritime fraud at more than US$23-billion a year. But the true figures are probably much higher, since many shipowners do not report incidents for fear of increasing their insurance costs or encountering expensive delays because of investigations.
The recent rash of pirate attacks in Asia may ultimately change the region's security situation.
Japan, whose entire oil supply from the Middle East passes through pirate-infested waters, has offered to assign coast guard vessels to protect shipping.
But other nations that still harbour bitter memories of Japanese occupation during the Second World War have reacted coolly to the suggestion, while still recognizing the need for action.
"It is vital that coastal states in these and other risk-prone areas deploy patrol vessels capable of dealing with these incidents," Mr. Mukundan said.
"We must ensure that these criminals do not treat these waters as a pirate's charter."
© Copyright 2003 National Post
First everybody had to have a dalmation, then a clown fish.
Now everybody wants to be a pirate...
MMMMMMMM PIRATES HO!
HA! - Right, matey! Our boat flew a Jolly Roger always, and we were never fired upon. Course our boat was ~named~ the Jolly Roger!
A radiation infested nearly dead pirate of Singapore origin is found in the Celebes Sea of the Western Pacific. The presence of radiation sets off warning bells all the way to Washington, D.C but also in Australia. Australian officials enlist Op-Center for a top-secret investigation of nuclear disposal sites. An empty drum from a recent drop-provides a clue that an international conglomerate which has been hired to dispose of the nuclear waste is actually selling it instead -- to a most unlikely terrorist...
Here he is ravishing a seemingly compliant wench!
I would volunteer for that duty.
I'm not expert or anything, but I thought Maritime Law governing international waters allowed vessels of any size to have an armory. The problem lies in the national laws of a port nation.
Can anyone clarify?
The industry probably doesn't want the liability that comes with accidents, so they're experimenting with putting electric fences around the decks. It's exactly like the airlines' debate: bullet-proof cockpit doors, etc.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.