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Shifts in Modern Piracy

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 Iro  J. Theofanides send us a brief note about the shifts in modern piracy, the growing pandemic which few have realised that it might bring the world, any moment at a standstill, if not tackled here and now; she writes:
From the end of the twentieth century till now – the first decade of the twentyfirst, maritime piracy is experiencing a menacing rise. Over the last 10 years piracy has made its appearance in a number of forms; from a small-scale “fishing–boat” operations seen-out by gangs, to well-planned attacks and thus big business off the coast of Somalia.
Piracy today is more brisk and business like. Until the day the Somali piracy “appeared” under the international radar, the Malacca Strait, South China Sea and the west coast of Africa were keener to such activity.

According to recent studies, maritime piracy is shifting geographical patterns from hotspots in Asia to the prevalence in Africa. In 2002, Asia experienced a number of 170 piracy attacks, whilst Africa reached the number of 78.  In 2009, Asia had 68 planed out attacks, when Africa suffered a total of 264 incidents.  Not only there is an increase in intensity, but also in the form of troubling violence. For example, in 2007 the average ransom payment in Somalia was 500, 000 dollars, by 2009, the amounts demanded rose up to 25 million dollars. The average ransom payments were between 2 – 3 million dollars, for example, US$3 million was paid for the “Sirius Star”.

In our days, paying ransoms is highly debated and criticized by the media and others, however ship-owners are completely entitled to pay ransom in order to free their hijacked crews and vessels. There is a motivation to act in this way because human lives are compromised, as also ship-owners want to treat their crews well, or ells there will be no crews to employ for their vessels in the near future.
Until now, it is a game of cat–and–mouse among the pirates and the international maritime community. Vessels are avoiding the Somali coast and likewise pirates are increasing their range using seized vessels to escalate the targeting range.

Somali piracy reaches success due to location, opportunity, and profits. The use of Hostage/Captive terrorism through Piracy is a low-risk, high-reward business made possible by numerous targets of unprotected and slow moving vessels.  These pirates are tactically positioned to interrupt navigation in the Gulf of Aden.  About twelve percent of the world’s oil makes its root through the Gulf, connecting to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.  Bordered Somalia on the one side and Yemen on the other, the Gulf is the main maritime passage where the Middle Eastern oil reaches the West making it one of the busiest sea roots in the world.
This recent trend starts to pose as a threat, not only to the maritime community, but also to global security.

The international community must take a stand and see piracy as a potent threat and serious matter that has to be dealt with. It is not a problem–solving series of human-interest stories about released hostages. If they keep handling it as such, piracy will only aggravate.  The worst-case scenario, set aside the Somalian piracy, is when the world will come to believe that this incapability to cope with pirates is a new a form of terrorism.

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