In this article, the author analyzes piracy at sea, trying to provide a general up-to-date vision of the problem which threatens the safety on the sailing of ships nowadays in different parts of the world.
The work deliberately avoids showing statistical data that may be easily looked up especially in the OMI and the IMB reports, to concentrate on the relevant question of the lack of international standardization of the concept itself; then he presents the different modus operandi of pirates according to the places where they operate. He also provides some episodes he considers clarifying and finally he examines the existing factors behind these punishable acts and presents some proposals considered necessary in order to tackle the problem of the Somalia-Horn of Africa region, the pronest area to piracy attacks nowadays, with a view to its possible eradication.
Piracy at sea is not a concept which nowadays can be only related to the pages in adventure novels or the stories about freebooters, buccaneers, corsairs and pirates. The temptation of a “business” which potentially represents huge profits found in a merchant ship with limited resources and training for the defence of their security has lead, especially during the last decades, to a reappearance of the problem derived from illegal acts.
Not less fearful than their predecessors, pirates nowadays keep on showing themselves as cruel and desperate criminals in lots of cases, and they do not doubt to hurt their victims, sometimes even unnecessarily. The attacks are usually violent and crewmembers´ damage and/or death are produced many times. However, the effects of these attacks spread out further than their direct victims, as the maritime companies suffer significant economic losses derived from their cargo robbery, the rise of insurance premiums and the ransoms paid for vessels and their crew kidnapped; and indirectly their reputation is a disgrace to their clients (especially the other parts of the contracts of affreightment and consequently additional costs arise.
Nowadays maritime piracy is not a problem which only concerns to those devoted to the maritime commerce or which is typical of a particular region; it is actually a worldwide problem of international nature. The situation regarding piracy at sea has decidedly become unacceptable; but as hard as it may seem, we have to look at this problem from the perspective of the governments and their politicians’ point of view. Thus, while violent robberies are inexcusable, the frequency of these attacks and the amount stolen are quite small if they are compared to the frequency and amount of similar crimes on land. Therefore, in spite of the pressure from different sources to establish national and international procedures to help fight this phenomenon, and the material resources to do so, these attacks are not necessarily a priority or of special concern to the politicians.
To all this, we have to add the potential risk of a disaster derived from the environmental damage produced due to a collision or a grounding during an attack, in the various events when a ship gets out of control in the track during a pirates´ attack.
From mid nineties to 2005, in a persistently desperate way, SE Asia goes on being the place in the world where there are more incidents, as around 50% of all the pirates´ attacks which come to light are produced here. Other regions as NE Asia, Indonesia, W Africa, Somalia and S America are also eaten up by this curse that threatens the maritime commerce.
Piracy in Somalia is not a new phenomenon, but until the middle of the present decade the incidence of piracy was quite limited. In 2005, however, the incidence grew from less than 5 to 35. In 2006, it declined considerably to a mere ten incidents, only to grow in 2007 to 31 pirate attacks. In 2008, the problem virtually exploded, going from being an irritation to a major global concern with an unprecedented rise in pirates´attacks. Now navies from at least 17 states, organized around three multinational taskforces, are patrolling Somalia’s seas. So far in 2009, 79 ships have been attacked and 19 ships and their crews taken hostage. However, as well-publicized cases of pirates being released after capture have demonstrated, legal constraints on the action of some states and confusion about the legal powers of others have been noticed. Naval or police action cannot provide any long-term solutions to piracy in Somalia. It is very difficult to deal with a law and order problem in a lawless country. Only addressing the root causes, including the internal problems of the country, a way to stop piracy will be offered. The naval presence may, however, reduce the severity of the problem, and improving or clarifying the legal framework in which navies operate will certainly help.
The problem worsens with the lack of information derived from the incidents that are not reported, making it more difficult to face the general situation. The IMO, in a conservative way according to many experts, consider that only one out of two incidents is officially checked.
Lots of reasons explain this trend towards not reporting about the attacks carried out by pirates. Thus, the shipowners are usually reluctant to release the pirates´ attacks their ships experience; and this is for different reasons:
Firstly, they frequently notice indifference from the coastal countries in whose waters the attacks are produced, which increases their belief that the reports of the piracy incidents do not provide them with any tangible profit.
Secondly, the financial aspect of the question also has a relevant influence in this attitude towards not reporting, as the insurance companies can increase their premiums basing on the increase of risk they have to cover. The reports may promote the crew complaints with the help of trade unions in order to ask for a pay rise due to the fact that they are forced to sail in dangerous seas. The fear that the information about the incidents may be used by their competitors to comparatively stress a lower security of their operations, leads to increase their reluctance when reporting the incidents.
Finally, from a complete documentation of the attacks, we can deduce that the shipowners were aware of the existing risks that the attacks could happen and even so they failed to protect their employees properly: there was a possibility that this argument would be used in legal battles where there could be proceedings about compensation complaints for damage or death of crewmembers.
As mentioned at the beginning, the result of all this is that only half the piracy incidents at sea is considered to be reported.
These incentives concern the coastal nations in whose waters the attacks take place in a similar way. Their incompetence to patrol their waters properly is usually an added difficulty. Corruption in these regions is often generalized. The guards may get commissions, always tempting when the salary is very low, for turning a blind eye to the pirates´ activities. In some incidents, the navy and/or the coast guard units are actively involved; in this case, their respective governments have very strong incentives for not promoting the spreading of reports where a corruption which they do not want to come to light may be easily seen. In certain cases, coastal nations are really suspicious of promoting acts of piracy. Another consideration is that the pirates´ attacks and the haul obtained during them may be a help to the almost always bad local wealth. Piracy eradication may be incompatible with the local inhabitants´ welfare and therefore it is possible that local governors do not get much interest or support in its achievement in many cases. Local governments may not be aware of the real extension of the problem and as a result, they tend not to assign the suitable resources. The low percentage of reported attacks contributes to perpetuate this situation. In other cases, the governments may be aware of the importance of the problem, but they do not supply their naval units properly or provide themselves with a land infrastructure according to their needs. In areas in The Philippines where the guerrilla warfare is usual, above all in the South islands of Muslim majority, members of the local Coast Guard unit have rejected to fight against the insurgents who are better armed and equipped and are responsible for lots of pirate attacks.
Because of the global nature of the problem of piracy at sea, the need of a cooperative solution with international character prevails, as its negative ramifications spread and affect a whole maritime industry and society in general. However, this solution at an international level has unfortunately turned out almost impossible to get for the time being. Thus, while all the participants would benefit from a world without piracy, each one seem to have their own incentives so as not to contribute to the solution of the problem and as a result of that, the attacks go on. The need to solve the piracy problem presents a second question in order to get its eradication: How to lead into cooperation?
The solution to this “second problem” can be divided into two. On the one hand, mechanisms in the industry which individually act towards this collective aim must be established; on the other hand, institutional mechanisms which keep the intervening elements together must be created. All this has the purpose of reaching a global and collective solution to the situation. The establishment of measures against piracy at sea shows disadvantages and it represents a genuine example of what is known as public property. One of the characteristics of any public property is its no-exclusiveness, i.e. given the lack of an organization controlling the costs of the services provided, all the existing payees try to avoid the covering costs in spite of the fact that all of them get a profit of the service; as a consequence, it is necessary to produce incentives which encourage all the beneficiaries to contribute. The other characteristic of a given property is its indivisibility; thus, a participant may have produced and paid a given property which at the same time provides profits to other participants, even though these have not contributed to pay the costs, becoming what in Anglo-Saxon terminology are named free-riders. A solution to this dilemma is making beneficiaries of this service to those nations that have contributed. On the other hand, a suitably convincing means of coercion should be established so that everybody is forced to pay their resultant share, being the charge an instrument which could turn out useful to this purpose. The establishment of a strong control structure is an essential previous requirement to any coercive action so much to that its absence up to now has been one of the main causes which has ruined all the initiatives and efforts to solve the piracy problem depending on a collective action.
The undertaken actions to reach any system of international collective answer to the problem of piracy will probably come to nothing due to the difficulties in finding a consensus. Unfortunately, for many people piracy at sea has not reached the level so that an arranged action is considered necessary yet. The financial losses seem to turn out tolerable for the maritime industry, so piracy has been seen as an inconvenience more than as a real problem to face. In this sense, ship operators (and their governments) might consider that the costs of paying occasional ransoms are less than the costs of taking steps to prevent occasional hijackings such as rerouting or arming merchant ships. It is said that payment of ransoms has tended to keep the level of violence associated with piracy off Somalia relatively low; and while individual ransom payments can be significant, the small percentage of ships operating in the area successfully attacked and captured reduces the overall risk in the eyes of some commercial entities. As such, the payment of occasional ransoms might be viewed by ship operators and their governments as a regrettable but tolerable cost of doing business, even if it encourages more piracy.
The loss suffered by national economies as a result of piracy is difficult to estimate. At first glance, the overall loss applicable to piracy seems small in relation to the total value of goods transported by sea. Clearly a company whose cargo is prevented from reaching its destination on time will lose money besides the cost of paying ransoms; the damaging economic effect on piracy in the Somali region can be seen. The consequences are not limited only to companies whose vessels are hijacked; of wider concern is the growth of insurance premiums for ships that need to pass through the Gulf of Aden that is slowly being blocked as a viable shipping route. If the cost of extra insurance becomes prohibitive, or the danger simply too great, shipping companies may avoid the Gulf of Aden and take the long route to Europe and North America around the Cape of Good Hope.
The effects of the pirates´ attacks may result on a bigger or smaller potential risk depending directly on the time used to make their criminal act, taking into account that they carry out most of their acts on restricted or congested waters. Ships that remain unattended during and immediately after a pirate attack may in fact one day get involved in a collision for this reason if these attacks go on happening. In the period between 1996 and 2005, 25% of the attacks were carried out against oil tankers. In several occasions, ships sailed unattended with the autopilot for about an hour; we can easily imagine a scene where a VLCC sailing for example through the congested waters of the Malacca and Singapore Straits, can easily collide with another ship or run aground. The resulting oil spill may cause an environmental damage perhaps more serious than the one in Exxon Valdez.
At the beginning of 1990, most of the attacks in SE Asia took place in the Phillip Channel with a length of about 20 miles (the South half of the way between Singapore Island and Indonesia). In this area, which is the W-E crossing way, all kind of ships with conventional cargo, containers and oil tankers were attacked.
The oil tankers sailing to the E generally sail loaded and they come from the Persian Gulf harbours. The data related to the ships that sail through this area show that the highest possible interval between the crossing of two ships in the same direction is of about twenty minutes and the distance between two ships sailing in opposite directions is of no more than one mile many times. The inherent risks to sailing through these restricted waters from the safety point of view means that a VLCC oil tanker Captain with a suitable disposition of lookouts and other responsibilities about sailing, while passing through these restricted and strongly congested waters, does not have available personnel to keep a suitable security against a pirate attack.
From the beginning of 2008 most attacks have been taking place in the Gulf of Aden, therefore being the previous considerations referred to SE Asia applicable. It is considered a strategically important international waterway through which a third of the world’s crude oil is carried. Over 20,000 vessels pass through this area each year. The Gulf of Aden lies between Yemen and Somalia and connects the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
The serious potential consequences, derived from the fact that an oil tanker may sail with no crew on the bridge for some minutes during a pirates´ attack and therefore with no control, are evident. In a recent incident and after a pirates´ attack, these abandoned the ship with the haul leaving the whole crew gagged and about seventy minutes went by until they could set themselves free and take the control of the bridge up again. If this incident had taken place in the Phillip Channel or in the Gulf of Aden, a disaster would have been unavoidable. In March, 1989 the world got terrified of the ecological and environmental damage caused by the Exxon Valdez disaster. Taking the accident situation of this oil tanker to a similar event taking place in the Phillip Channel or in the Gulf of Aden, the result could be catastrophic. Apart from the consequences derived from the sea pollution, it could be possible that the fairway or channel in those areas would be blocked to sailing and fishing for some time. However, it is an unfortunate fact in life that lots of people never see the potential risks even though they are high. It has often been said that only the day when a serious maritime problem happens as a consequence of an act of piracy, the governments will assign the necessary resources to make sure that no more attacks will happen.
The maritime industry has adopted a reactive attitude at great sea accidents or incidents as a consequence of which different international maritime regulations have taken effect in order to avoid other similar events (the “Achile Lauro” hijacking in 1985 and the subsequent diplomatic initiative carried out after it by Austrian, Egyptian and Italian Governments as triggers of the SUA Convention in Rome in 1998; the “Herald of Free Enterprise” accident in 1987 as a trigger of the ISM Code, later included as an amendment in Chapter IX in the SOLAS, which came into effect in two phases depending on the kind of ship -1st of July, 1998 and 1st of July, 2002 respectively-; the 11S attack against the Twin Towers in New York as a trigger of the ISPS Code, later included as an amendment in Chapter XI in the SOLAS, which came into effect on 1st July, 2004). Therefore, we have to take into account that, as there may not be a second opportunity in the case of oil spill for this reason, it is necessary that instead of the reactive attitude, which as we have just seen were adopted after the episode of different serious accidents, a preventive attitude should be established with the purpose of avoiding them; not admitting those risks and failing to take the necessary steps to avoid a catastrophe of these dimensions with an act of piracy could be an irresponsibility.
The safety question in the aerial navigation gained a greater importance after the destruction of Pan American flight 103 over Lockerbie (Scotland) on 21st December, 1988. Similarly, so that the maritime world become aware of the situation and realise what the threat piracy represents, it seems sadly necessary that there has to happen a disaster to the environment after a grounding or collision of an oil tanker while suffering a pirates´ attack or a dramatic increase of insurance rates to enhance the willingness of the shipping industry to invest into better security. Unfortunately, it only seems a question of time.
 The English terms “safety” and “security” are both translated into Spanish as “seguridad” and in order to distinguish them, the terms “protección” for “security” and “seguridad” for “safety” are used. From the conceptual point of view, we have to distinguish between the terms security (protection against crime, which is mostly used for measures preventing attacks, sabotage or theft through passive and active measures) and safety (protection against physical and occupational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event which could be considered non-desirable).
 According to the statistics of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Piracy Reporting Centre (ICC-PRC).
 International Maritime Organization (specialized agency of the UN responsible for the adoption of measures tending to improve the sailing security and for the fight against the marine contamination of ships. It is also involved in legal matters, including issues related to legality, compensation and facilitation of international maritime traffic).
 If a few years ago ransoms were in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars range, nowadays they have hovered between half a million and two million dollars, although recent reports indicate that demands have shot up again.
 In May 2008, insurance underwriters at Lloyds of London designated the Gulf of Aden a “war risk” zone subject to a special insurance premium. London-based ocean marine insurers have raised rates for ships making the voyage through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal. These levels of increase can only be estimated because of the competitive nature of the ocean marine insurance business. One group of London insurance brokers and underwriters estimates extra premiums at $10,000 to $20,000 per trip through the Gulf.
 More and more shipping companies are opting to take the long route around the Cape of Good Hope. For example, Maersk announced in December 2008 that some of its slower vessels, as well as those without an adequate freeboard will not be allowed to transit the Gulf of Aden, a journey that can take up to three weeks longer than going through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden.
 Rerouting vessels to avoid the Gulf of Aden and other waters near the Horn of Africa adds additional transit days and fuel costs to shipping companies. The costs vary the type of ship and the frequency of voyage, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (for example, circumnavigation rather than transiting the Gulf of Aden/Suez Canal increases the annual operating cost of an oil tanker “by reducing the delivery capacity for the ship from about six round-trip voyages to five voyages or a drop of about 26 percent. The additional fuel cost of travelling via the Cape of Good Hope is about $3.5 million annually”). See in this sense, U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, “Economic Impact of Piracy in the Gulf of Aden on Global Trade”, December 2008.
 Very Large Crude Carrier (a large oil tanker between 200,000 and 300,000 tons dwt).
 The most prominent example of a crash caused by a pirates´attack is the collision of the hijacked tanker Nagasaki Spirit and the containership Ocean Blessing in 1992 in the middle of the Malacca Straits.
 If the Straits of Malacca were to be blocked by a terrorist attack, ships would have to make a detour of roughly 1,000 miles, leading to higher freight rates and consequently also to higher commodity prices. Considering that 80% of Japan’s oil is imported from the Middle East, such an attack would clearly have a significant impact on the world economy.
 Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.
 International Safety Management Code.
 International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
Contemporary piracy was not an urgent problem until the mid eighties of last century. Therefore, the definition of the piracy concept according to the agreements internationally accepted, has not approved the existing scene at present and they exclude the concept of the attacks not taking place on the high seas and those sponsored or politically caused by a nation, which are not considered pirates´ attacks. Nowadays, most of the attacks take place in territorial waters and rarely on the high seas. All this creates uncertainty when we try to deal with the measures tending to eliminate piracy depending on the present agreements. Before tackling this subject from the factual point of view, it is now necessary to distinguish between the concepts of “piracy” and “armed robbery against ships” according to the international regulations in force.
From the practical point of view, it is irrelevant that an attack on territorial waters constitutes an act of piracy or an armed robbery; this is particularly a fact for a Captain who wakes up pointed with a weapon by a masked pirate who asks him to open the safe in the middle of the night. The danger both for his crew and for himself is equally serious and impending, being the ship anchored, docked at port, on territorial waters of any nation or on international waters.
The attacks against seamen and ships are more daring and violent nowadays and it seems the moment has come to carry actions out which direct these criminal acts to acceptable levels. Only an effective action of the Governments at an internal level as well as coordinated among all of them could reach this purpose.
An international established concept of piracy did not exist before 1958 when it appeared described in Art. 15 in the Geneva Convention on the High Seas on 29th April, 1958. Nowadays this definition is taken in the same way in Art. 101 of UNCLOS Convention. Such definition is considered confusing due to its lack of precision. The “private” term means that essentially piracy excludes attacks carried out by ships under a nation control. Similarly, the “for private ends” term can sometimes exclude a situation when the act is inspired by people with apparently political reasons as a terrorist act would be; in that case, it does not represent a strict use of such term. The fact that the act of piracy has to be carried out “on the high seas” means that statistically most of the attacks are produced on the territorial sea of a nation (in the twelve coastal miles) when the ship is either sailing or anchored, and according to this definition, such acts are carried out on the territorial waters of a nation and not on the high seas; so they are not technically considered acts of piracy but “armed robbery against ships”, as defined by the IMO in the Res. A.922(22). Thus, according to UNCLOS Convention every country has the right to arrest and judge the pirates. However, none of them are allowed to enter other countries´ territorial waters and pursue these criminal acts in application of their own laws tending to piracy eradication. This means that different countries may or may not have laws that legally compare acts of piracy carried out in and out of their territorial sea.
Another example that distorts this definition is the need that there are two ships “against another ship or aircraft...” in such a way that pirates have to use a ship to attack another one, what excludes of the concept a mutiny on board organized in advance or an act of piracy at port which at first would not be necessary, although in this last example the assumption is directly excluded as it is necessarily carried out on the territorial sea of a nation. Finally, an attack carried out from a navy or customs unit of a country, as there are already documented cases, can´t be considered an act of piracy either, according to this article, as it has to be carried out “by the crew or the passengers of a private ship”.
The IMO adopts the same definition of piracy as Art. 101 in the UNCLOS Convention both in its Res. IMO A.922(22) “Code of Practice for the Investigation of the Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships” and in the Circular MSC/Circ. 623/Rev.3 “Guideness to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships”. The criminal act is the same, but if it is carried out on the high seas it is named “piracy” and if it is carried out on the territorial sea it is named “armed robbery against ships”.
According to the definition adopted by the IMB for statistical purposes, piracy is “an act of boarding or trying to board any ship with the intention of committing a robbery or any other criminal act and with the intention or aptitude to resort to force for such act”.
From this definition we can infer the following:
Acts of piracy are also those carried out on the territorial waters of any country, being the ship either sailing, anchored or docked, with no difference in this case;
The presence of two ships is not required, what means that the acts carried out at port are also included;
It is not required that the act of piracy is committed for private ends, what means that the attacks on a ship for political or environmental reasons are considered acts of piracy.
The SUA Convention taken in Rome in 1988 (the hijacking of the “Achile Lauro” in 1985 triggered this Convention) tries to avoid that pirates seek and find sanctuaries in countries whose legal systems do not allow their pursuit, and it compels the nations to enact laws to fight against piracy, in the search to stir up the jurisdictional problems in these cases, which have been frequently the motive why the nations have not been able to pursue the pirates who enter territorial waters after an act of piracy in the jurisdiction of another country. However, this Convention has been ratified by few nations (only 50 at present) and consequently, governments such as the ones in SE Asia go on taking the concept of piracy from the UNCLOS Convention, what in fact means a profitable situation for pirates which contributes to perpetuate the problem.
Therefore, one of the most important tasks for the future is the adoption of an international legal concept of piracy clear and broad enough so as not to let different interpretations according to the interests as it happens nowadays. This definitely represents a real obstruction to new measures tending to eradicate piracy at sea.
However, the national law plays an important supplementary part in the fight against piracy, for it is
- the only statutory basis for vessels which have been attacked and which only transit the territorial waters of one state, and
- the only statutory basis for criminal prosecution when international law does not permit criminal prosecution (UNCLOS Convention) or when the international law determines that the national one is applicable (SUA Convention).
 United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay-Jamaica, 1982).
 Around 80% of the registered pirate attacks occur in territorial waters, i.e. near the coast. However, during the last few years pirates seem more and more willing and capable to attack boats on the high seas, especially around Somali waters. Thus, the IMB advises vessels “to keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast, ideally more than 200 nautical miles.”
 Maritime Safety Committee (it is an advisory body of the IMO in matters related to safety in navigation).
 International Maritime Bureau. This international maritime agency is a specialized organism of the International Chamber of Commerce – ICC. It is an organization with no profit motive in mind, established in 1981 to act as a reference centre in the fight against all kind of crimes and fraudulent practices at sea. One of the main issues it is dedicated to is the suppression of piracy. The alarming increase of this phenomenon led to the creation of the Piracy Information Centre by IMB in 1992. This centre is placed in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and keeps a permanent observation on all the maritime lines in the world, reporting the pirates´ attacks to the local authorities responsible for the performance of laws and warning the sailing ships in dangerous waters about piracy.
 We have to stand out those Asian middle powers such China and Japan have already signed the convention, as an extension of their interests in having their naval patrols “licensed” by international law.
In short, an act of piracy, such as it is proposed here following the definition adopted by IMB for statistical purposes, can happen when a ship is at port docked, anchored or sailing, being in this last case on territorial seas of a nation or on the high seas. From the analysis of lots of recognized cases of acts of piracy, we can stand out that the pirates´ modus operandi acquires one of the following ways:
Acts of piracy at port or anchored
Ships with their cargo on board have always been an attractive target for robbers who are present in lots of dock areas. This problem has worsened in the last years, in such a way that the robbery of the cargo is an endemic trouble in many countries and in some ports generally “soft” in their pursuit; and it seems so inevitable that it gives the impression of an almost tolerable trouble in some cases.
There is an emerging tendency of gangs organized to act in a planned way in some ports; they attack the ships by force and are prepared to frighten the crewmembers and use violence, even murder.
After an analysis of the existing cases in the last years we can draw three conclusions in general:
The attackers are predisposed to make use of the strength to achieve their goals;
Once the attackers have managed to get on board, it is useless and perhaps imprudent to offer resistance;
In a general way, there is a lack of response to the application of the law on the nations´ behalf where these acts of piracy happen.
The more common regions for these acts of piracy both in ships at port and anchored are West Africa, South America, and Bangladesh. These attacks are carried out by armed gangs who use much violence and a certain degree of planning of their criminal acts if compared to other parts of the world. These attacks usually contain:
The great degree of violence which the criminals strongly armed use once they get on board;
The purpose of their haul is the money from the safe as well as the cargo, personal effects and the ship´ s equipment. In short, any property they are able to move;
The total average value of this haul in an attack is higher than the one carried out during the pirates´ attacks using a short time in SE Asia; besides, there is usually some previous planning of the attack before it;
There is a lack of competence or disposition to face the problem on the police behalf in these regions;
Some targets are anchored ships.
More specifically, this kind of piracy mainly takes place in ports in Brazil (Santos), Nigeria (Lagos and Bonny River) and Bangladesh.
Acts of piracy at port
When the ship is at port, directly tied to the dock or brought alongside another ship, it is generally boarded by the scale to it if it is not watched, by climbing up the mooring lines or the anchor chain as appropriate, or by using grappling hooks and/or aluminium modified ladders in order to climb to the ship rail and get on deck
Acts of piracy anchored
The attack to anchored ships has the same characteristics as the ships docked at port, although naturally the attackers need to have an additional capacity to move on the water in order to gain access to the ship. This kind of attack happens while the ships are anchored, either unloading the cargo to barges or to other ships, or while waiting for a dock. It is usually carried out from small boats seeking protection in darkness and the pirates get on the ship either by the stern by means of grappling hooks and/or aluminium modified ladders in order to climb and get on deck or by climbing up the dropped anchor.
In the 90´s decade, this kind of attacks was quite common in adjoining waters to West Africa ports, especially in Nigeria (Lagos and Bonny River) and Tanzania (mostly in port, anchorages and surrounding waters of Dar Es Salaam)], with gangs who reached the ships by canoes and robbed everything they could take, from the ship equipment to the crew´s personal belongings, the safe, the cargo and mooring lines. Taking the flight was quite easy on their canoes moved by outboard motors of about 40 HP which cannot be pursued by patrol boats supposing they were led to response to such act of piracy.
According to the last IMB statistics, there are no reasons to believe that this kind of criminal acts is decreasing in those areas of the world; however, there are other more sophisticated signs of this crime in other regions which present even a more disturbing tendency. Thus, most of the Brazilian ports are exposed to acts of piracy. There is more than one reported incident where groups of armed people have managed to get on the ship, not with the purpose of an opportunist and fortuitous robbery, but with the previous knowledge of what they could find in the specific containers; and what is more discouraging, the authorities have not helped the ships, victim of these attacks.
Acts of Piracy on Sailing Ships
To these effects as it has been said, we consider acts of piracy both those taking place on territorial waters and on the high seas, as the difference between one and the other case concerns the derived problems of the lack of international legal uniformity in the concept of piracy. In the cases of sailing ships we have to make a difference according to the time and seriousness of the criminal act in each case. Consequently, we have to distinguish among those acts of piracy on the short term, the longer ones which usually imply the unloading of the cargo to another ship in order to be sold fraudulently, and those ones where the robbery of the total ship is the purpose of the act of piracy, followed by other illegal acts similar or even more serious, without forgetting those ones where there are involved nations after which there is a military or political background.
Acts of piracy on a short term
In numerical terms, until 1992, this kind of acts was the most common and frequent in the area of the NW Island of Sumatra, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the Phillip Channel and the territorial waters of Indonesia; so it is in SE Asia where most of this kind of incidents take place. Fortunately and according to last IMB report, there are reasons to believe that those criminal acts are decreasing in these areas.
The method is basically very simple although there are some exceptions worth reviewing. The criminals place themselves at one side of the ship in a small quick boat able to reach the same speed as the ship victim of the attack (there are assumptions where they have managed to gain access to a ship which sailed at 18 knots). The approach usually happens on the stern, avoiding the side or the bow of the ship because they can be seen, therefore losing the surprise factor. Once on board, they reach the bridge, dining rooms and the crew´ s cabins using great skill in their action. Generally, the attackers terrify or immobilize the crew from the bridge and then they reach the Captain's cabin as they know the safe is there and they open it or force the Captain to do it. Sometimes when they have not been able to open it, they have taken it out from its fitting stowage to carry it with them.
The attackers often steal personal effects and money from the crewmembers, too before running away quickly. The average time of an act of piracy of this kind is between thirty minutes and two hours and the average value of the stolen goods in each attack usually ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 $. A complete analysis of different cases of this kind is useful to exemplify different techniques although the object of their attack is generally the money and the valuable objects.
In most cases, pirates always use threats in their acts, although they do not often use violence unless they are offered resistance; there is more than one registered incident when they have gained access to the ship without being seen, stolen the safe from the Captain's cabin taking it out from its fitting stowage and left the ship without been detected by any of the crew.
Acts of piracy on a long term
This kind of incident is the one which probably most look like the acts of piracy in the old days. In these cases, the pirates hijack a sailing ship either on territorial waters or not. The crewmembers are defeated and the ship goes off the previous course/track and destination, keeping this situation for some days while the ship is completely unloaded and only then the crew and ship are released.
This kind of acts of piracy does not normally represent fortuitous criminal acts, but they are previously organized and need a detailed planning to carry it out. An example of this kind of attack is the case of the M/V “Marta”. In August, 1990 the ship “Marta” with a flag from Cyprus sailing from Bangkok to Busan (South Korea) was boarded at the frontier between Thailand and Camboya at night by four armed pirates who obviously knew exactly where the ship was at the moment and the details related to the tinplate cargo worth two million USA dollars. The attackers brought the nine crewmembers under control and started an odd trip, repainting the funnel with another watchword and renamed the ship as “V TAI” by using a template previously and specially made for this purpose. They raised the Honduran flag though they did not bother to change the port of the ship register painted at the stern.
The ship was forced to sail to the South for two days, being the crew handcuffed and blindfolded. Finally, the ship anchored and during the night the pirates unloaded 2,000 tons of tinplate to a barge brought alongside with land people and lift trucks to help the process. After unloading the whole cargo, the ship weighed anchor and sailed to the North. Two days later, when they were at the NE Malaysian coast, the pirates left the ship on the lifeboats with the Captain as a hostage who had been given a tranquillizer the night before. After destroying the radio of the ship, the rest of the crew was released with a large-scale map from the Gulf of Thailand half torn so that they were able to reach Bangkok again. The crewmembers were left physically and mentally shocked due to the hard experienced suffered.
From this act of piracy we can infer not only a great degree of organization, but also of impunity of the attack, corroborated with the fact that one of the pirates stated that it was the sixth successful attack he had carried out in the last eighteen months.
The named phantom ship: The literal theft of a ship as a trigger of a series of more serious crimes
This kind of act of piracy is the most serious and it consists of a scheme designed by the organized crime of SE Asia in order to get a ship. The modus operandi is quite simple.
By means of a system of agents and contacts, the criminal group finds out that there is a shipper willing to find a means of transporting a cargo. One of the pirates’ options, luckily not the most frequent, consists of the literal stealing of a ship to transport this cargo. This is the act of piracy in the true sense of the word although the illegal acts which this entails are with no doubt even more serious.
The chosen ship is usually hijacked on the sea, transferring its cargo (in this kind of crime, they even prefer a ship in ballast) to another ship accomplice to the operation and the crewmembers are left to their fate on the sea. Then a series of illegal acts start to take place, all of them tending to change the ship into what has become to be named a phantom ship. This is possible due to the temporal registers of ships made by Marine service officials of some countries. The register applications are sent to the named “Shipping Bureau”, Shipping Assistance” or “Marine Companies” in SE Asia. Documents with false information are sent to the Officials in charge of such register and as a result of this, the reflected information in the “Provisional Register Certificate” referred to such ships, as their main characteristics or the shipowner´s name, is actually false, but valid for the next three months. This means that the same ship may be registered under different names with different characteristics; this makes very difficult to follow the trail of these ships named “phantom ships”, being possible to get a false register of these characteristics before the false shipowner takes the control of the ship.
This phantom identity gives the shipowners of these ships an essential weapon to make this new kind of crime after an act of piracy. Equipped with this new false name, the ship is offered to load the cargo to a shipper willing to find a ship for such purpose and to accept the bills of lading. Once the ship has been loaded, the charter man trusts that the ship sails to the established destination and the person who receives the cargo waits for the arrival of the ship with his cargo there; but it is an effort in vain: the ship never arrives at its destination. In the whole known cases of an act of piracy of these characteristics, the ship alters the established course and arrives at another port where the cargo is sold to another person who may or may not have been part of the fraud prepared from the first moment. Once the ship has been unloaded, it starts a new process to give the ship a new false identity, a phantom ship ready to commit a new fraud of big dimensions. It is virtually impossible to make a tracking of these ships because none of the register details are safe and when the moment of getting the necessary information for its pursue comes, the ship has stopped existing as such, in spite of all the attempts and efforts and it is probably sailing with another identity.
During the eighties last century, Philippines got the sad fame of constituting a country where this kind of crimes was hatched. The first ship we have heard that has disappeared without trace in a decade of great number of ship hijackings was the M/V “Comicon” on the 15th of February, 1980. Neither the ship nor the 25 crewmembers have ever been found. With the detention of the Philippine Captain Emilio Changao, this chain of illegal acts ended.
In November, 1996 the M/T “Suci”, an oil tanker loaded with diesel oil, was hijacked in the Philip Channel (E end of the Malacca Strait). The crewmembers were left adrift except for the two engineers who were finally disembarked on land after ten days. For the time being, nothing is known about this ship in spite of the attempts carried out for its finding.
But perhaps the most paradigmatic example of attack is the incident of the “Alondra Rainbow”, which shows how the maritime industry and the authorities can work together with the purpose of defeating the pirates. Due to its importance, a summary of the episode about the incident is described next.
On 22nd October, 1999, the “Alondra Rainbow” loaded with 7,000 tons of aluminium ingots left Kuala Tanjung in Indonesia towards the Japanese port of Liike. Soon after the departure, a gang of pirates armed with swords and firearms hijacked the ship. The 17 members of the crew were threatened with death and transhipped to the MV “Sanho”, which was brought alongside at sea, keeping them captive for a week until on 29th October, 1999 they left them adrift on a lifeboat. On 8th November, 10 days later, they were rescued by a Thai fishing boat on NE Sumatra.
On 28th October, the Information Centre about piracy of the IBM, started the broadcasting of a message to other ships at sea via Inmarsat C SafetyNet, asking for information of any ship whose characteristics were similar to those of the “Alondra Rainbow”. The excellent answer of some Captains at sea helped find the disappeared ship. On 14th November 1999, the Captain of a Kuwaiti oil tanker informed of the sight of a ship with the outline of the “Alondra Rainbow” setting course for the Arabian Sea. The centre of information about piracy of the IBM gave this information to the Indian Coast Guard together with a photograph of the ship asking for his assistance. The answer was immediate and the Coast Guard sent a maritime patrol plane in order to trace the area. After catching sight of the suspicious ship, the Coast Guard informed that the outline of the ship matched with the photograph he had of the “Alondra Rainbow”; however, its name was “Mega Rama” hoisting the Belice flag. Several verifications, carried out in the Information Centre of the IBM about piracy, showed that such ship was not registered in Belice. The Indian patrol plane tried to keep contact with the ship on the radio, but it did not answer. Then, a coastal security patrol was sent to block the suspicious ship 70 miles away from W Ponnani. In spite of several threatening shots on the prow, the suspicious ship increased the speed and went on its track. It was necessary that the missile launcher corvette INS “Prahar” turned into action so that this unfortunate episode started to come to an end. The war ship used the force gradually in order to carry out the capture which finally took place on 16th November, about 300 miles SW Mumbai. The 15 Indonesian pirates found on board presumably tried to spoil the criminal evidence by starting a fire on board; they also tried to sink the ship by causing a leak. The naval assault group who got on board were able to control the fire, to keep the generated flood under control and finally to tow the ship to Mombai.
The investigation showed that the ship engineer, Burham Nanda and Captain Christinous Mintando met an agent of a boarding agency in a café in Batan, Indonesia on 4th October, 1999. They finalized the plans to hijack a ship and boarded on the MV “Sanho” which was anchored in Yakarta; 35 people embarked, 12 of whom were armed. The person in charge of them was known as “boss”. The first port where they stopped was Batam, where fuel, water and provisions were loaded. On 17th October it sailed towards Kuala Tanjung, Indonesia reaching this place on the evening of 22nd October, 1999. One of the pirates had already embarked on the “Alondra Rainbow” while the ship was loading the cargo. Then about 12 people armed with guns and lethal weapons went from the MV “Sanho” to a speedboat. When they caught sight of the “Alondra Rainbow”, the speedboat reached it on the stern. In order to help them get on board, the pirate who had been hidden on the “Alondra Rainbow” had let out ropes steady to the handrail on the stern. The crewmembers of the “Alondra Rainbow” were captured and tied. Then, the MV “Sanho” came alongside and Captain Mintando and other 14 “crewmembers” went on board and took control of the “Alondra Rainbow”. The real crewmembers of the “Alondra Rainbow” were transhipped to the MV “Sanho”.
On 23rd October 1999, Mintando and the 14 crewmembers changed the name “Alondra Rainbow” into “Global Venture” and sailed to Miri in E Malaysia, arriving on 26th October. They bought black paint and repainted the hull changing the old blue colour by black.
On 27th October, 3,000 tons of aluminium ingots were transferred to the “Bonsoon II”, brought alongside for that purpose. After this, the ship agent gave orders to Mintando to sail to Karachi in Pakistan. At a given moment of the crossing, the name of the ship was changed again, naming it “Mega Rama”.
Meanwhile, the “Bonsoon II” sailed to Philippines loaded with the stolen aluminium ingots. The “Mega Rama” was captured almost two months later and taken to Mumbai as already described. At least two of the 15 Indonesian pirates had taken part in the hijack of the ship “Tenyu” in September 1998, what suggests that they were part of an organized criminal gang.
Although India had ratified the UNCLOS Convention of 1982, they had not incorporated it to their national legislation. The Indian Penal Code does not specifically deal with piracy at sea or the hijacking of ships. Besides, when arresting the supposed pirates, India had not ratified the UNCLOS Convention of 1988. However, seeking protection in the Indian laws, pirates can be pursued on the base of the juridical principle “Piracy Jure Pentium”, considering it a crime to every country. The punishable act of the offender is said to turn out punishable on the part of his captors by virtue of this principle anywhere he is, whatever the nationality he belongs to and as a consequence, any Court is legitimated to judge him.
In spite of the reviewed difficulties, the Mumbai police charged the supposed pirates with 11 charges according to the previsions in the Indian Penal Code. Initially, the supposed pirates were presented before the metropolitan Magistrate in Mumbai after their capture and later before the competent High Court to judge them. The public trial started on 14th March, 2001 and in March 2003 they were condemned to seven years of hard labour.
As we have seen, the act of piracy -literal theft of the ship- is usually insignificant in this kind of crimes when compared with the criminal act it is used for; but it is obvious that the beginning of the chain of crimes is an act of piracy.
Fortunately, and according to the last IMB reports, nowadays there are reasons to believe that this modus operandi is not in use in this area, even though it always exists the risk of a new outbreak of these criminal acts.
Acts of piracy with a military or politic background
Unlike the frequent acts of piracy, maritime terrorist attacks are clearly much less usual.
Perhaps the most famous event has been the terrorist attack of the passenger ship “Achille Lauro” on October 7th, 1985 in the eastern Mediterranean and as mentioned, it was a trigger of the Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation adopted in Rome in 1988- SUA Convention.
From 1993 and until about 2000, it began a new kind of piracy acts in China, where the ships manned by people dressed with military uniforms blocked and started fire over merchant ships or yachts, stealing and kidnapping them. These attacks have diminished or even disappeared in the last years due to the advertising given to them on the international press, which caused that the Chinese authorities tried to solve the problem.
Other relevant maritime terrorist attacks that can be mentioned are the attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000 and the French tanker, MV Limburg off the coast of Yemen in 2002, both carried out by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.
Hijacking a ship and demanding ransom for the vessel and the kidnapped crew
Pirates operate by using small low-tech skiffs, made of wood or fibreglass (typically 10 armed pirates into three skiffs fitted out with grappling hooks and aluminium ladders, rocked propelled grenades (RPG´s), AK-47 rifles, knives, satellite phones and GPS´s) with powerful outboard engines (40-50 horsepower). These boats are fast and manoeuvrable, but they lack the necessary range for getting better hauls. Nowadays, pirates regularly launch attacks by using ‘mother ships’ to increase their range from the coast. These are generally fishing trawlers that the pirates capture near the shore and then use as a means of transport for attacks on the high seas. Generally, the pirates use deceptive tactics such as false GMDSS DSC Distress Alerts, posing as fishermen or carrying out dummy attacks to divert warships from the area of a real attack. The use of mother ships helps to understand how pirates have managed to increase their range so dramatically; this explain how the old warning to stay at least 50 nautical miles away from the coast has now been replaced by warnings to stay at least 200 nautical miles away. It is generally thought that the time sine de pirates are seen to the moment they are boarded is between fifteen and twenty minutes. Such a short space of time helps to explain why even with international patrols in the area, ships are still captured. In order to prevent an attack, a naval vessel would need to be close and have a helicopter ready to go at the moment’s warning.
Vessels are fired and compelled to slow their speed of approach while pirates climb on board, take the command of the ship, and sail to anchorage off a friendly coastal town such as Eyl, where ransoms are then negotiated while crews and cargo are held for a long time. Unlike in other parts of the world which are engaged in this kind of attacks, where it might be more likely to kill or seriously wound merchant ship crew members, most attacks carried out by Somali pirates rarely showed a willingness to harm their hostages gratuitously in the course of their raids, since extracting ransom payments is their objective.
Whereas in 2007 a lot of piracy was focused on Southern Somalia and Mogadishu port where, according to the UN monitoring group, port officials helped facilitate several attacks, in 2008 the most noticeable change was the shift in the main area of activity, since the most of the attacks have taken place in the Gulf of Aden. This makes sense since, as noted above, the Gulf of Aden is a major shipping route with around 20,000 ships passing through the it each year, carrying oil from the Middle East and goods from Asia to Europe and North America; this shift offers better hauls than Mogadishu and the consequence is that one of the most important trade routes in the world is now threatened by the chronic instability in Somalia.
Piracy has been a problem in Somali waters for at least ten years. However, the number of attempted and successful attacks has risen over the last three years. The only period during which piracy virtually vanished around Somalia was during the six months of rule by the Islamic Courts Union in the second half of 2006. This indicates that a functioning government in Somalia is capable of controlling piracy.
Whereas until recently most of these attacks occurred off the eastern coast of Somalia, in 2008 this was overtaken by the north coast of the same country, i.e. the Gulf of Aden, at the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal at the other end. The difference between the two is of some significance, as attacks on shipping along the east coast mainly affect the Somali population, inter alia by hampering humanitarian aid, whereas those on the north coast mainly affect international shipping linking the Middle East and East Asia with Europe.
 Most of these attacks happen between 2200 and 0600, local hours namely in dawn or dusk hours.
 ICC-IMB Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships Report – First Quarter 2009.
 In Anglo-Saxon terminology it is called “hit-rob-run”.
 For non-marine readers, a large-scale map is the one which represents a large extension, therefore being of a large scale, used for the oceanic navigation, in comparison to the small-scale map, the one which is of a small scale representing a little piece of the nautical map, more detailed and mainly used for landfalls, ports and coastal sailing areas.
 There are many sources about this case in different papers, reports and on the web. Here we use as a reference: Abhyyankar, Jayant “Piracy and Armed Robbery and Terrorism At Sea”, ORF Workshop on Maritime Counter Terrorist, Delhi, 29 November 2004.
 The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur, established since 1992, issues regular reports of piracy via routine radio communication broadcasts and the Internet.
 On April 8th 2009, Somali pirates seized the U.S.-flagged merchant vessel MV Maersk Alabama approximately 250 nautical miles south east of the Somali town of Eyl, placed on the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Nowadays the distance warnings have increased; accordingly the IMB (see ICC-IMB Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships Report – First Quarter 2009) in cooperation with the Maritime Security Centre-Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA) advises that vessels not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia should keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast, preferably more than 600 nautical miles.
 Nevertheless, in this case and as Bjørn Møller states, “This does, however, pose the question of whether the cure is worse than the decease”. See MØLLER, Bjørn, “Piracy off the Coast of Somalia”, Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, January 2009, p. 4.
In this paragraph we will make reference to the two most world prone regions to suffer pirate attacks on the last twenty years, i.e. the SE Asia from the 90´s decade till 2005 and Somalia-Horn of Africa from the middle of the present decade to nowadays.
The SE Asiatic region
The IMB statistics show that after 1991 and until 2005, the number of acts of piracy increased in an alarming way. The factors that cause them depend on the region where they are produced.
Thus, in SE Asia the volume of maritime traffic has increased significantly at the same time as there have been riots in some of the countries of this area and a great economic recession at a general level. The Malacca Straits sees two thirds of all the oil produced that is moved by sea, passing through its narrow waterways. Security experts believe that should terrorists wish to make a significant impact on the global economy, then it is here that they are most likely to attack. The Straits could be closed or severely hampered by a large merchant vessel sunk in its narrow sea-lanes. This would mean that vessels would have to move to the south of Indonesia, increasing sailing times by as much as three days. Insurers would increase their costs, shippers would increase their costs, and the South East Asian Markets could conceivably crash. The Western markets could also suffer, and the impact would be felt throughout the world. It is because of this that Western governments should be increasingly concerned about the security of this narrow stretch of water. Moreover, there are essentially five direct factors which have played a relevant role in the resurgence of piracy:
A decrease on the naval presence in SE after the end of the named Cold War, especially since the eighties;
A lack of capacity of the coastal countries to obey the laws;
Undeveloped cooperation systems in the region;
Insufficient measures as far as the countries of this important area of communication are concerned;
Progressive decrease of the crews of ships. Without a full complement of crew it is impossible to maintain a sufficient watch in dangerous waters, making evasive measures less effective.
Apart from these five factors which have favoured the increase of piracy in the area, we have to state that the pirates have equivalently seen their manoeuvre capability and escape increased, which gives them a considerable margin of security; in this case, also of impunity. For example, if an outboard motor is set in a small boat, it may easily reach a speed of 30 knots and this way escape from the warship (lots of them, older than their usual life) that is pursuing them. With a GPS, the pirates know their position accurately at any moment even on the high seas, which lets them:
The rendezvous with other pirate ships;
The possibility to carry out acts at great scale, and finally;
Draw up strategies.
Another matter which worsens the problem is that there are legal gaps at a national and international level and this gives them safe areas to act.
The navies of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore have the task of patrolling the world’s busiest shipping lane, the Malacca Straits. To a lesser extent the Indian Navy has some responsibility, but this is limited to the Northern extremities of the waterway, in the vicinity of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The recent agreement between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in April 2006 to formalise the Malacca Straits coordinated patrol Network by bringing both the surface patrols and maritime air surveillance arrangements by the littoral states to ensure the security of the straits is a step in the right direction. The three governments are extremely protective of their sovereignty in the Malacca Straits and this recent agreement marks a major step patrolling the waters surrounding their countries. The IMO has developed a cooperative framework around the littoral states of the Strait of Malacca, and other Asian governments that has been in force since 2006. Known as the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP), the agreement established procedures for coordinating responses to piracy and sharing best practices between law enforcement and security personnel. The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) in Singapore now serves as the principal clearing house for piracy reporting and response coordination. These steps, taken together with other regional agreements among Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to coordinate anti-piracy patrols in the Straits of Malacca and surrounding waters have been successful in reducing piracy in that region. Though, the initial focus of the agreements is on information sharing, it may be expanded later to include capacity building, sharing of expertise etc.
 There is no alternative to an efficient and viable route through maritime Southeast Asia other than to traverse between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. One of the most important international shipping routes from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea (which joins the Pacific Ocean) passes through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Together, they serve as the jugular of Southeast Asia‘s maritime realm. Singapore’s harbour, as the world’s busiest transit port, sits on the straits as a key hub in the global economic lifeline. The best alternative to the Malacca and Singapore Straits are three routes that run through the Indonesian archipelago — the Strait of Makasar between Kalimantan and Sulawesi, the Sunda Strait and the Lombok Strait. These routes apply especially to ships running between the Middle East (the Persian/Arabian Gulf) and East Asia.
Where piracy is concerned, regional growth trends are always directly related to economic crises and inadequate legal and security systems. Somalia is a recent example. When the Barre regime was overthrown in the early 1990s by the clan-based warlords, the state lost control of its own coastal waters, and began the sporadic first phase of Somali piracy. Trawlers from other countries were able to fish in Somali waters unhindered, jeopardising the livelihood of local fishermen and leading to violent disputes that have emerged as the country has lost its ability to patrol its waters over time. The local fishermen were more or less defenceless against the large foreign trawlers and increasingly turned to piracy to safeguard their own survival.
The rate of piracy incidents off the Horn of Africa has escalated since 2005. This battle still continues, accompanied by the power struggle between the warlords, which has now been extended to the sea. The warlords are using the power gap in Somalia for their own private attacks on ships, above all with the intention of demanding ransoms.
The most important cause is surely the extreme economic and social hardships suffered by the general population since the Ethiopian invasion, leaving the majority without any other sources of income than crime and creating an experienced need for parts of the population to turn to piracy.
The identity of the Somali pirates, their social structures, motives, etc. is not generally known. The number is unknown, but it has been increasing since the middle of the present decade; primarily they come from the Puntland region of Somalia and it does not seem to have a unified organization with a clear command structure, being reportedly fishermen and former militia members of the Somali warlords. Several of the pirate groups argue that fishermen have become pirates because their way of life was destroyed by illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping that has been ignored by foreign governments and see, or have at least depicted, themselves as protectors, either of their local communities or of the local marine environment, adopting names such as “National Volunteer Coastguard” (NVCG), “The Guards of Somali Marine Resources”, “Central Regional Coast Guard” or “Somali Coast Guard” to suggest that they are involved in a more legal occupation than piracy and claim that they were forced to organize themselves to defend their sea waters after foreign nations started to fish illegally in Somali territorial waters and consequently that they are acting in a maritime security capacity. Pirates have the tendency to characterize their actions as an alternative livelihood or as a retribution for illegal international activities in Somali waters because they believe that they have every right and entitlement to attack illegal fishing vessels operating in their territorial waters as their fishing resources are being pillaged daily by international shipping vessels from Asia and Europe. Even though it seems to have kept at least most of the proceeds for themselves and this reasoning may mask the opportunistic piracy of some, pirates have claimed to be distributing the “tax” demanded from foreign vessels in the form of ransom in return for fishing rights more evenly.
Some of the growth in piracy along the eastern coast of Somalia may be explained by the rising volume of humanitarian aid coming in, e.g. from the World Food Programme (WFP), providing an estimated 185,000 metric tonnes of food to the Somali population, around ten times the amount provided in 2004. Pirate’s attacks initially focused on attacking ships in this zone declining significantly when France began to provide escort-protection for sailing to WFP shipping to Somalia in November 2007. This, united to the fact that ships operating on that route shifted further out to sea, may be one of the reasons why Somali pirates shifted their focus to the Gulf of Aden, where there is a high concentration of merchant ships in a constrained waterway providing better hunting areas. Nowadays that international naval forces are patrolling the Gulf of Aden with some effectiveness (the number of successful hijackings has dropped even though the number of attempted attacks has not decreased), Somali pirates have shifted some of their focus back to the Indian Ocean, and are now able to operate hundreds of nautical miles from the Somali coastline, often with the help and support of larger fishing vessels often acquired or commandeered by acts of piracy, known as ‘mother ships’ able to launch smaller boats (skiffs) to perpetrate pirate attacks, a new modus operandi that allows attacks on large vessels such as large oil and container vessels.
The negotiation of the bilateral and multilateral initiatives in the Straits of Malacca region highlighted several issues that may be of interest to parties seeking to establish similar programs in the Horn of Africa region, namely the importance of addressing local concerns over sovereignty, territorial water rights, and the presence of foreign military forces in regional waters.
Finally, owing to their only characteristic, the model of Somali pirates seems to be different to other regions as the Straits of Malacca or Nigeria where ships are boarded either to take the vessel or its contents. This Somali piracy can be viewed as a way of maritime kidnapping because its only characteristic has been routinely taking the target vessel’s crew hostage in return for ransom payments. This is possible because the pirates have sanctuaries on land in Somalia and in its territorial waters from which they can commit pirate attacks and conduct ransom negotiations, something which is less likely in other parts of the world. As a consequence, the maritime security forces are challenging the traditional engagement strategies and tactics.
Piracy in Somalia-Horn of Africa: How the Problem can be tackled
Taking into account that a reliable government of Somalia in the foreseeable future capable of establishing the necessary policing to control and remove pirates from the country is unlikely, a situation that would be the best deterrent factor against piracy in the Somali-Horn of Africa region, would be a long-term government, according to most experts.
In this paragraph, we will make a general reference to the measures that international community and the private actors are taking or proposing now regarding piracy in this world area of major concern nowadays.
Given the continuous tendency to an increase of piracy in different areas of the world, the increase of violence in the attacks and the resurgence of more sophisticated ways of piracy, especially since the eighties, where the organized crime seems to have entered, we could make ourselves the question why? The answer is simple because pirates have all the advantages as they have the whole sea to act. Modern radars let them see if they are being pursued, what means that they can wait and commit a crime with impunity knowing that they will have enough time to escape if any security forces of intervention decide to act.
The difficulties are huge not only due to the extension of the areas to patrol, but also to the lack of available financial resources of some countries to apply them for that purpose. In order to create a response capability which can face the pirates, a considerable fund allocation would be necessary and some countries do not have enough money to assign it to achieve this objective. If to these difficulties, we add the political problems which arise when pirates acting in border waters between two countries, are able to move from one jurisdiction to another quickly, we may consider that there is much to do regarding this matter. The situation still worsens when many countries, instead of recognizing the difficulties and the reality and seriousness of the facts they face, tend to be reluctant and expose lots of arguments trying to base on the non-existence of the problem and in case it exists, there is nothing to do.
Although any initiative is welcome, it is doubtful that the criminals described along these pages will be really affected by them. All this is because the main problem is to be able to “catch the pirates”, and not so much “what to do with them once they have been caught”.
The lack of resources of some coastal countries to fight piracy at sea has already been stated and this situation is understandable and acceptable; but what really exists up till now and it is unacceptable is the lack of any way of coordinated response on land. Pirates act on the seas with the only purpose to commit their illegal acts; but it is clear that they must land at the end of the day to dispose to get their haul and it is here where they are vulnerable. Up to now, the rules oriented to fight the piracy and enacted by different countries are not dissuasive enough; at first, they seem not to affect the local people they legislate for, and then it is a problem that does not affect them. After several initiatives at a regional and international level have come into operation, mainly in the Malacca Straits and in the Gulf of Aden, this local attitude is bound to change and the countries may cooperate in order to save the sea from this threat to free sailing.
 For example, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 700-foreign owned vessels were fully engaged in unlicensed fishing in Somali waters by 2005.
 For example, a July 2005 report from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) estimated that Somalis lost $100 million to illegal tuna and shrimp fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone in 2003-2004.
 At present, the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is working with the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) on efforts to form a unity government and reconstitute national security and law enforcement entities. There are no reasons to trust the future or the success of their goals (it is the 15th interim government structure since 1991).
 For example, the geographical area of concern in the Indian Ocean off Somalia’s eastern coast needed to patrol, has been measured at more than 1 million square miles.
International community has made several attempts to deal with the threat of piracy around Somalia and has responded by deploying warships to the Gulf of Aden:
Somalia has been continuously on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and has passed resolutions on piracy in the Horn of Africa.
- Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), in operation since January 2009, was established by Coalition of Maritime Forces with the only mission of conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean; a role that had previously been carried out by CTF-150, which goes on performing counterterrorism and other maritime security operations as it has done since 2001-2002. In August 2008, CTF 150 and partner forces agreed the establishment of a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden to serve as a dedicated, more secure transit zone for merchant vessels with the goal of lowering the success rate of Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden transit zone.
- Other countries, outstandingly Russia, China and India have deployed naval forces to conduct anti-piracy operations in the region.
- The NATO force named “Operation Allied Protector”, an anti-piracy mission, was launched in March 2009 with the objective of “deter, defend against and disrupt pirate activities” as they sail the region.
- The European Union NAVFOR named “ Operation ATALANTA”, its first naval operation task group deployed under the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy in operation since December 2008; and according to the European Union Council Secretariat, has had the task to provide protection for WFP vessels and merchant vessels (a role had previously been carried out by CTF-150), and it is authorized to “employ the necessary measures, including the use of force, to deter, prevent and intervene in order to bring to an end acts of piracy and armed robbery which may be committed in the areas where they are present”. EU NAVFOR has also established an online centre known as Maritime Security Centre-Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA) for transiting ships to record their ships’ movements voluntarily and to receive updated threat information, detailing recent trends in pirate attacks and making recommendations to vessels transiting regional waters.
- Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. This Code was adopted in January 2009 among representatives of 17 regional governments in an IMO-sponsored meeting in Djibouti. There are three regional facilities and a regional maritime information centre in Yemen which supports the information shared by the partners of the agreement.
Among CTF-151, EU Operation ATALANTA and NATO Operation Allied Protector, almost 50 warships are currently patrolling in the region.
 See Resolutions 1816 (June 2008), 1838 (October 2008) and 1851 (December 2008).
 According to the European Union, the force consists of twenty ships and over 1,500 personnel. Greece, France, Spain, Germany and Italy have contributed with forces and personnel to the operation. Other EU member states are expected to contribute later.
Measures to the self-defence of ships
Given the apparent failure of the littoral states to guarantee security in this important international waterway, shipowners have increasingly been looking elsewhere for ways to enhance their security. Ship’s crews have developed standardized countermeasures and better practices in their attempts to avoid and resist pirate attacks. The use of water cannons and fire hoses has spread out a lot. The industry has also introduced a certain number of sophisticated technical solutions in recent years such as SHIPLOC, SECURE-SHIP, the identity card of the ILO (International Labour Organization), the alarm system demanded by the ISPS Code, the LRAD noise generator system, which are achieving more relevance nowadays.
The carrying and use of firearms for personal protection or protection of a ship is strongly discouraged by the IMO and it is not authorised by some coastal states because it may increase a dangerous situation on board. The use of firearms requires special training and aptitudes and the risk of accidents with firearms carried on board is great. In some jurisdictions killing a national person may have unforeseen consequences even for people who believe that they have acted in self-defence. Since merchant ship crews are not often trained in the use of weapons, they might not be able to use them very effectively in the fight against pirates. If ship crews try to defend themselves with firearms and fail, the pirates might probably kill some of the crew members.
Another way of arming a merchant ship is hiring armed security teams to ride on the ships, known as Private Security Companies (PSC´s). Despite those PSC´s merely act as deterrence to potential attackers, they have provoked a strong response from the littoral states. One problem with the rising numbers of PSC´s providing their services in the region’s waterways is that they are currently unregulated. While there is some effort among the best established companies to self-regulate, this is only in its early stages. This lack of regulation could have serious implications for the safety of shipping in the region.
Financial concerns may also discourage against arming merchant ships because hiring armed security teams might be more expensive than paying occasional ransoms. Liability for fatal shootings aboard can be a complex legal matter that can lead to expensive lawsuits. Since many ports restrict vessels from having weapons on board, commercial ships that often make calls at multiple ports along their operating routes could find it difficult to operate along certain routes.
There have also been proposals to convoying as more and more warships patrol the region. Certainly, convoys escorted by warships is an option, though merchant ship operators may be reluctant to use them because it may require merchant ships to wait in a certain location for the next scheduled convoy to begin, which can imply costs on ship operators. Furthermore, this security tactic may be adapted by the pirates who can attack different parts of the convoy at the same time to break it or to separate weaker, slower, or less manoeuvrable vessels from the formation.
Maritime Security Patrol Areas
As seen in paragraph 5.1, in August 2008, CTF 150 established a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden to serve as a dedicated, more secure transit zone for merchant vessels and EU NAVFOR has also established an online centre known as Maritime Security Centre-Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA). Certainly, following a standard route should make it easier for international forces in the area to monitor shipping and respond to distress calls, but the naval units are not probably enough at this moment and therefore they would potentially offer an easier target for pirates. Another risk is that pirates change their modus operandi from ransoms to for example the use of phantom ships. These problems arise if there is not enough international presence.
 The IMO and other bodies such as the IMB have developed detailed guidance and recommendations for governments and commercial vessels seeking to prevent, deter, and respond to pirate attacks.
 The IMB has been working together with an operator, leader in satellite tracking systems in order to design a satellite tracking system called SHIPLOC with the aim to locate the ships at sea or port, having already been installed in some of them. It is a small transmitter relatively cheap (it can be monthly hired for about 250 $, depending on the kind of device) and it may be hidden in the ship. For their own safety the crewmembers need not be informed of the existence or place of the transmitter. The only necessary additional equipment is a PC with Internet access. IMB earnestly recommend shipowners the installation of this device on board of their ships.
 The system consists of a folding electrified defence which causes non-lethal high voltage shocks at the slightest contact and it is set at both sides of the ship. When the ship enters port or when another ship or barge needs come alongside, the electrified defence bends easily to make the manoeuvre. As the defence is divided into Br and Er areas, it is possible to activate only one side of the ship while the other is deactivated, which is very useful when the ship is docked at port and there is the need to deactivate the side of the dock while the side to the sea is kept activated. Besides, the defences have got “doors” that allow a temporal opening as in the case of the area at the side at the height of the pilot ladder, the accommodation ladder or the lifeboats. A sophisticated control system detects any attempt to enter and it generates the starting of several devices (lights, alarms, sirens). This very strong noise generator system and the high intensity projectors assure that any attempt of the pirates´ approach to get on board is aborted. This detection system is designed in such a way that it resists any weather condition and the sea water entrance because of the waves, without reducing its effectiveness (for further information, see web page: http://www.secure-marine.com).
 In June 2003, the International Labour Organization (ILO) implemented the issuing of a new internationally recognised identity card to the world’s 1.2 million seamen containing their photograph and biometric data which identifies fingerprints in order to prevent the disguised boarding of pirate and terrorist crews.
 This Code, incorporated in Chapter XI-2 of the SOLAS Convention, demands the installation of a new Ship Security Alert System – SSAS on board the ships which have to obey such Code. The purpose of this system is to provide a cover resource which makes a means of alert to the company and to the flag nation of the ship possible, meaning that there has been a serious incident on board which affects their security.
 Long Range Acoustic Device. We could consider this device as a non-lethal acoustic weapon developed by US Navy. Of a similar size as a satellite receiver, this device not only broadcasts warnings by means of a powerful loudspeaker, but also it is able to send acoustic signs of very low frequency (the acoustic level is 150 decibels while the one of a fire alarm for example is about 80) within reach of several hundreds of metres. This noise generates significant earache making communication impossible and consequently it makes pirates desist from their attempt. This system has already been installed in passenger ships and warships since 2003.
 A company in the United Kingdom, the Anglo Marine Overseas Services, is offering the services of a private force of ex- soldiers of that country, known as Gurkhas, with the purpose of protecting the ships sailing in waters where there is a risk of pirates´ attacks. Formed in groups of 4, 6 or 8 men, their main work is to dissuade pirates from their criminal acts (these ex-soldiers have worked as soldiers for an average of 16 years). The company has sent letters to different ship operators offering their services where they do not specifically inform that these men are armed, but they state that a secondary work is “to solve the case”, so they probably use their weapons if the dissuasive actions do not have any effects. Removing the cost this service implies, this measure seems to be effective, not in vain it is extra-officially known that pirates avoid attacking the Russian or North American ships deliberately as it is said that lots of them have weapons for their security and, on the other hand, neither of these maritime nations has expressed anything publicly which denies it.
One of the major deficiencies of the international rules concerning the suppression of piracy already codified in the Geneva Convention on the High Seas of 1958 and repeated in the Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 is their limited definition of piracy. The lack of legal uniformity about the international concept of piracy is a problem that limits the measures tending to eradicate it to a large extent. It is for that reason that it is necessary that the international rules take a wide legal concept of piracy in the line that the IMB adopts for statistical purposes.
The different national laws also play an outstanding roll as well-publicized cases of pirates (especially in Somalia) being released after capture. Legal constraints are perceived to exist on the action of some states and confusion about the legal powers of others which are aggravated by the fact that, according to recent reports, some of the Somali pirates are teenagers, usually under eighteen, who may be judged in the juvenile Court rather than in a criminal Court, in case of a criminal act.
Only by confronting the root causes, including the internal problems of the country, a way to stop piracy may be offered. The naval presence may, however, reduce the severity of the problem, and improving or clarifying the legal framework in which navies operate will certainly help.
Pirates´ attacks seem to be most prevalent in countries with emerging economies, numerous estuaries and offshore islands, large stretches of remote coastal areas, and ongoing political insurgencies.
Efforts to combat and punish piracy as a crime are frequently nipped in the bud by legal loopholes, inadequate cross-border cooperation, and the lack of political will in some places.
From the analysis of the modus operandi of pirates we can infer the consequence that in some cases, in particular since the late eighties, more sophisticated ways of piracy have developed where the organized crime gives the impression of having entered and in view of whose acts, seamen find themselves helpless and for different reasons, with few possibilities of any help. It stands out for its seriousness, in the SE Asian region, from the mid 90´s decade till 2005, the named phantom ship, where other crimes of similar or worse significance joined to the act of piracy, and in Somalia-Horn of Africa, from 2005 till and still, where ships are hijacked and pirates demand ransom for the vessel and the kidnapped crew.
Taking into account that there are incidents where there has been a serious risk of provoking a human and environmental catastrophe, especially when as a consequence of an attack, the ship has been kept unattended in the bridge for a considerable time while sailing in restricted, busy waters without any control of its track, it becomes necessary that the marine industry changes the traditional reactive attitude due to serious maritime accidents. They should give priority to preventive measures which look for the piracy eradication. Otherwise unfortunately, it only seems a question of time that one day we have to regret it even beyond the continuous threat it supposes for seamen who sail through the dangerous areas where even if they do not suffer attacks, there is no doubt that their stress, their work and consequently their tiredness is increased with all the implications all that entails.
The smaller crew numbers found on board most ships (approx. 15-20 compared to former times 40-45) also favour the pirate attacks making anti-piracy guard service difficult. A small crew engaged in ensuring the safe navigation of their ship through congested or confined waters may also have the additional task of maintaining high levels of security surveillance and training for prolonged periods. Companies should ensure that security watches are enhanced if their ship is in waters or ports, where attacks are known to happen.
Regarding Somalia, the international community has sent several patrols to the area. According to the last IMB report, this reaction united by the ship Masters adhering to the recommended advice and carrying out robust anti-piracy precautionary measures are achieving the drop of the number of successful hijackings in the Gulf of Aden, even though the number of attempted attacks has not decreased; but the decisive factor is what happens on land. So, whatever the international community decides to do, it must not be at the expense of efforts to guarantee a political solution inside Somalia, because the most powerful weapon against piracy will be peace and opportunity in Somalia, coupled with an effective and reliable anti-piracy police force and law enforcement.
An analysis of the factors that underlie behind the acts of piracy reveals that there is much to do. The economic limitations of coastal countries where pirates act, as it has been seen, join together with questions of conscientious preservation of each one’s sovereignty, situations of misrule where it is impossible to obey the laws, little willingness of the coastal countries to fight these crimes, cooperation systems undeveloped or the gradual decrease of the crewmembers in ships during the last years represent the present situation. The revision of these factors has enabled to draw up some general proposals in order to tackle the problem of piracy, a logical consequence of it and some future considerations around this phenomenon which nowadays, especially in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, are not encouraging while the present status quo is kept.
. BANGERT Struwe, Lars, “For a Greater Horn of Africa Sea Patrol. A Strategic Analysis of the Somali Pirate Challenge” The Danish Institute for Military Studies, March 2009 (this report can be downloaded at www.difms.dk).
. Crime at sea: a practical guide. The Nautical Institute, London, 1996.
. DAGNE, Ted, “Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace”, Congressional Research Service Report RL33911, May 2009.
. ICC-IMB Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships Report – First Quarter 2009, London: ICC, 2009.
. ICC-IMB, Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships, Annual Report 1 January-31 December 2007, London: ICC, 2008.
. ICC-IMB, Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships. Annual Report 1 January-31 December 2008, London: ICC, 2009.
. IMO MSC/Circ.622/Rev.1, PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS. “Recommendations to Governments for preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships”.
. IMO MSC/Circ.623/Rev.3, PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS, “Guidance to shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships”.
. LENNOX, Patrick, “Contemporary Piracy off the Horn of Africa”, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary (prepared for the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute), December, 2008.
. Maritime and Coastguard Agency UK Marine Guidance Note 298 (M) October 2005. “Measures to Counter Piracy, Armed Robbery and other Acts of Violence against Merchant Shipping” p. web: http://www.dft.gov.uk .
. MAZZONE, F., “Prevention of a terrorist attack of a ship while at port or sea”. (In: Parritt, B.A.H. “Violence at sea: A review of terrorism, acts of war and piracy, and countermeasures to prevent terrorism”), Paris: ICC Publishing S.A., 1986, pp. 149-168.
. MENEFEE, S.P., “Terrorism at sea: The historical development of an international legal response” (In: Parritt, B.A.H. “Violence at sea: A review of terrorism, acts of war and piracy, and countermeasures to prevent terrorism”). Paris: ICC Publishing S.A., 1986, pp. 191-224.
. MØLLER, Bjørn, “Piracy off the Coast of Somalia”, Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, January 2009.
. MØLLER, Bjørn, “The Somali conflict. The role of external actors”, Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Copenhagen, March 2009.
. MURPHY, Martin, “Contemporary piracy and maritime terrorism. The threat to international security”, Adelphi paper 388, Routledge, UK, 2007.
. O. KING., Rawle, “Ocean Piracy and Its Impact on Insurance”, Congressional Research Service Report R40081, February 2009.
. PARRITT, H.A.B. “Security at sea: Terrorism, piracy and drugs. A practical guide”, The Nautical Institute, London 1991.
. PATERSON, S., “Can piracy be managed in South East Asia? A case study: The Malacca Strait”. University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth 2001.
. Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Securing the Malacca Straits, ed. Graham Gerard Ong-Webb, ISEAS Publishing, 2006.
. PLOCH, Lauren et al., “Piracy off the Horn of Africa”, Congressional Research Service Report R40528, April 2009.
. STAV, C. “Practical measures to be taken by ports and ships' crews to prevent an attack and to minimise the risk when an attack occurs” (In: Parritt, B.A.H. “Violence at sea: A review of terrorism, acts of war and piracy, and countermeasures to prevent terrorism”), Paris: ICC Publishing S.A., 1986, pp. 131-142.
. Violence at sea: A review of terrorism, acts of war and piracy, and countermeasures to prevent terrorism. ICC Publishing S.A., Paris 1986.
. WEST, Deborah L., “Combating Terrorism in the Horn of Africa and Yemen”, Cambridge, MA. Belfer Centre for Science and International Relations, Harvard University, 2005.