Thursday, April 22, 2010

International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center

The IMB issued a report on international piracy yesterday. Their conclusions: The total number of reported acts of piracy has decreased, 67 incidents in 2010 compared to 102 in the same period last year. However, these acts have become bolder and are taking place farther and farther from shore. In fact, there have been at least two incidents where pirates have mistakenly fired on warships.

These conclusions could be interpreted to mean that international patrols and countermeasures are forcing pirates to become more bold and/or desperate in their search for targets. Or it could be a coincidence. It's possible the huge ransoms being paid out are giving the better trained and more determined pirates greater flexibility and breathing room. In other words, the smarter ones are laying back and enjoying the fruits of their labors, while what we're seeing more of now are opportunistic neophytes cutting their teeth on this type of high seas crime.

I still see a pervading attitude of non-belligerency in the international community regarding this problem. Navies and patrol vessels are reactive rather than pro-active, and rules of engagement against pirates remain handicapped by fears of legal repercussions.

Just the other day a French Navy ship that was fired on responded with warning shots only. The French vessel did track down and sink the pirate mother ship and detain a few pirates but I doubt this did much if anything to stem the desire for wealth and adventure. And herein lies one of the main criticisms: We intern these criminals for a short period of time and then we send them back to launch more attacks. We have given them little if anything to fear. In this environment we're creating - absent a cohesive and aggressive anti-piracy policy - we are in effect turning a blind eye to the spawning of a new pirate culture. Some of the pirates we're seeing of late, the ones who can't tell the difference between an armed and dangerous warship and a harmless and defenseless merchantman, represent the first bloom of this new culture.

For more information, as well as live reports of criminal activity on the high seas, go to the International Maritime Bureau's Web Site and/or the International Criminal Services Division of the ICC.


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