The global threat of piracy

Throughout history, international waters have served as daunting territory for the world’s commercial shipping industry.

Dodging storms and coping with long treks at sea are all in a day’s work. However, those who have chosen to brave the world’s shipping channels have always had to be mindful of another imminent threat.

Today, pirate attacks are on the rise. However, there have been no collective decisions made on how to deal with the issue of these modern day bandits.

Modern piracy

Today’s pirates are not the eye-patched, parrot-shouldered plunderers that we once thought them to be.

According to Foreign Policy, “Modern piracy is a sophisticated enterprise.” Even more problematic is that “pirates have proven themselves to be highly adaptable.”

The sophistication of these bandits is due to their high-tech equipment, which works to severely hinder piracy intervention.

As of late, Somalia has emerged as the global piracy hotbed. However, the coasts of South Africa, India and Indonesia are also threatened by an inadequate presence of international authority to prevent such attacks.

The pirate industry

Somali pirates, outfitted with weapons provided by neighboring Ethiopia, thrive in port towns such as Eyl.

The Somali town of Eyl is one locale which has adapted to fill the needs of pirates. In fact, the BBC reports that in Eyl, “Special restaurants have even been set up to prepare food for the crews of the hijacked ships.”

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Undeniably, piracy is a thriving industry. According to the BBC, a common rate for ransom payments lies between $300,000 and $1.5 million. In fact, much of the wealth of the Puntland economy can be attributed to piracy.

The BBC reports that when questioned about the reported wealth of pirates and their associates, the president of Puntland, Adde Musa, responded, “It’s more than true.”

The ransom spoils

Some in the international community are willing to pay off the pirates, which presents an increasingly problematic cycle. Undeniably, ransom payments only work to encourage piracy.

However, pirates are also driving up prices for consumers.

According to the BBC, by occupying some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, pirates are forcing shipping companies to adopt increased costs into their fees, which eventually have an impact on consumers.

These costs are for heightened security, higher insurance premiums, ransoms and extra fuel for longer routes.

In 2008 alone, “Piracy is estimated to have cost the world an estimated $60 and $70 million.”
Global action

Today the coast of Somalia is patrolled by warships from France, Canada and Malaysia, among others. However, the BBC reports that the issue with piracy prevention lies in the fact that “there is also no international legal system for people accused of piracy,” which is taking place in many regions of the world.

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According to Foreign Policy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen “has pointed out that to cover all the expanses of sea at risk of piracy would require 1,000 ships.”

This figure represents “three times the size of the entire U.S. Navy.”

As it appears piracy cannot be stopped with the use of naval ships, alternatives must be found.
According to the BBC, a common solution is necessary to combat modern day pirates.

It is believed that “an international court is needed, backed by the UN, with perhaps even an international prison for those convicted.” To date, this is the best option to tame the high seas and keep the pirates at bay.