According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the piracy can be defined as “the act of boarding any vessel with intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act”. In simple words piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea through illegal use of force by non-state agents, popularly known as “Pirates”. In recent years, the problem of piracy has emerged as a major threat to sea transportation in some parts of the world. According to some estimates, pirate attacks have increased by a whopping 75% in the last decade alone. As per IMO data, there were 489 reports of piracy and armed robbery against ships in 2010, which were 20% more in comparison to 2009. IMB publishes monthly, quarterly and annual piracy reports with details about names of ships attacked, position and time of attack, consequences to the crew, ship or cargo, and actions taken by the crew and coastal authorities.
Hot Spots of Modern Piracy
The hot spots of piracy today are the Indian Ocean, East Africa and the Far East including the South China Sea, South America, and the Caribbean. In recent times, pirates have been found to be very active in the waters between the Red Sea (particularly in Gulf of Aden) and Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and in the Strait of Malacca. There are also reports of pirate attacks on the Serbian and Romanian stretches of the international Danube River since 2011. According to some estimates, worldwide losses due to piracy can be as high as 13-16 billion US dollars per year.
In recent times, there have been several incidences of brutal hijacking of ships off the Somali coast by Somali pirates, which grabbed the global media headlines. As a result, the US has started a multi-national effort to patrol the waters near the Horn of Africa to prevent future attacks on ships. The Strait of Malacca remains another hot spot for piracy today, but in recent years the area has seen a dramatic downturn in piracy due to coordinated patrolling by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore navy forces, and increased level of onboard security on ships. Other major piracy prone areas are the Caribbean and Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. According to reports, piracy in the Indian Ocean is getting more lucrative and more violent, despite an anti-piracy EU naval force patrolling the area.
Like legendry pirates, modern pirates are still involved in looting and hijacking ships for ransom, but their ways of operations has dramatically changed over time. Modern pirates now don night-vision goggles; carry AK-47s, heavy machine guns, and rocket launchers; navigate with GPS devices; and use sophisticated speedboats mounted with heavy mortars to target ships. According to reports, Somali pirates were found attacking ships with Russian made 82mm mortars that can target a ship as far as 5 kilometers from shore. Modern pirates today are part of organized crime gangs that target big and small cargo vessels, and even cruise ships and private yachts.