Our fascination for pirates can be traced back during the olden times. Contemporary stories glamorize and commercialize pirates as heroes, while restricting the perception that pirates are precarious thugs living the lives of an outlaw. However, modern spectators view pirates in a different perspective, they are deemed as the villain and treacherous brutes of the maritime world. The people of today are intrigued about pirate’s moral and social disposition. It seems that in an ever changing world, sea-piracy has shifted from being treasure hunters to monetary claimants. It has been one of the oldest crimes existing, but their ways and means are new and diversifying. How is the maritime industry responding? Are they winning the war on piracy? Or are they being left behind? These are the questions that needs enlightenment as humanity continues to face a familiar and imagined foe, the pirates. It is a conflict among nations against a lawless adversary.
For thousand of years, the sea has always been an anarchic realm. In contrast with land and air, it is barely regulated, even today. Treasure maps, doubloons and jewelry are merely non-existent on the sea cradle. As a result, the pirates developed new methodologies for survival. Thus the birth of modern maritime piracy, in which pirates victimized shipping vessels by hijacking and kidnapping crewmen. They operate using small skiffs with powerful engines and these boats are fast and highly maneuverable. In recent years, pirates started to use mother ships to effectively increase their range. According to Roger Middleton, a professor and an author, the improvements such as the use of GPS navigation system and linkages to international networks increase pirate’s sophistication and development.
How is the maritime industry responding?
When a shipping vessel was hijacked and crews are kidnapped, negotiations will commence between the pirates and the government. Decades ago, shipping firms and governments are prepared to pay the sums since the demand back then is relatively small compared to the value of the ship and the lives of the crew. Today, demands from pirates continue to increase.
In September 2011, a Vietnamese shipping company paid more than $2.6 million to free its crewmen. Liberian flagged MV PANAMA, a vessel hijacked on December 10, 2010 en route from Tanzania to Mozambique, with a crew of 23 from Myanmar, was released after a $7 million ransom paid. Moreover, a $3 million ransom freed a Danish yachting family, ending a six-month ordeal with the Somali pirates. The ransom was apparently paid by the family through private negotiators after the refusal of the Danish government to pay the ransom. For just three occurrences, the ransom paid totaled to $12.6 million. Recent reports suggest that, the amount being paid for ransom is constantly increasing, about $5 million for an average-sized vessel and as the successful hijacking subside this year 2011, the amount being paid as ransom continue to boost. In the past year alone, $80 million has been paid for ransom.
Are they winning the war on piracy?
With pirates continue to gain more leverage in terms of ransom payment, imminent eradication of maritime piracy remains a shadow. Various recommendations were proposed including the withholding of ransom payment. However, this has corresponding implications, pirates will devise new tactics and they will instead capture vessels or simply target their cargoes. Non-payment can also result to loss of life that no monetary value can pay. It is therefore considered to make a concerted effort to deflate ransom prices by not paying the demanded amount. If all of this fails, the real solution lies to the political development inside Somalia. The efforts of the international community are considered short-term solutions.
Is the maritime industry being left behind in addressing sea-piracy?
It is now clear that behind every mist lies the possibility of a pirate attack. It is now up to the government of nations to gust the mist shadowing every sailor’s course.