Say the word pirate or piracy to anyone these days and many would automatically think of Captain Hook, arch nemesis of Peter Pan, or Johnny Depp donning the swaggers of Jack Sparrow swinging from ship masts brandishing a beautifully sculptured sword. These images are all well and good in the world of film and fantasy but in the real world, pirates do exist and their level of criminality is set on a more damaging and life threatening level.
Modern day acts of piracy are on the rise, and with little or no deterrents in place to formally convict a pirate of any illegal activity, it’s hardly a surprise.
Incidents of piracy occur more often than the press would have us believe. Many incidents go unreported in the news but the reality is that approximately thirty to forty acts of ocean piracy take place every single month of the year culminating in a financial loss of up to $16 billion world wide.
Sophisticated piracy of modern days
Pirates today are much more sophisticated than one would probably imagine; armed with an array of automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenades, and a fleet of high specification speed boats, it has become apparent that the pirates of today are not groups of criminal chancers desperately chasing down a small boat to gain and steal, but a knowledgeable and violent fighting force of career criminals and organised gangs that have been linked to larger criminal groups across the globe.
Targeting bulk carriers for financial gain is just one aspect of piracy that happens on a regular basis. Crews are threatened, beaten, and used in extreme circumstances, individuals are used in negotiations in an effort to claim a high ransom fee. It’s not just these large container ships that are vulnerable to the threat of piracy, leisure boats with a one or two man crew are often targets, and it’s these that we see on the news where kidnap is a prevalent factor.
Many would be wrong in thinking that the modern pirate only operates in one particular part of the world, or cover just one stretch of ocean with consistency. The reality is that today pirates do not isolate themselves to one particular location and incidents of kidnapping, theft, and violent acts of piracy have been reported not only in Somalia, but also around the waters of Singapore, Indonesia, the Red Sea, and large stretches of the Indian Ocean. Since 2011, reports of pirate attacks have materialised along stretches of the Serbian and Romanian Danube River.
Recognised as a real threat, the brutal hijacking of ships is something that does strike fear into sailors and ships crews, understandably so. Their use of weapons, GPS navigational systems and clever tactics to target cargo vessels, cruise ships, and private leisure yachts is making piracy a formidable money maker with little or no consequence to the thieves should they ever be traced and captured by the authorities.