Update (April 10, 2009): Almost a year after it was originally published, the below post continues to receive considerable traffic, especially after the pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama and the kidnapping of Captain Richard Philips by Somali pirates.
As of this update the situation remains incredibly tense with reports of a failed escape attempt by Captain Philips around midnight last night and automatic gunfire from the pirate commandeered lifeboat. There are also reports of several previous hijacked ships with a large number of international hostages are steaming to the standoff area in an effort to “rescue” the drifting pirates and move Captain Philips ashore in order to secure ransom.
In the year since this post was originally published, little has been done to try to solve this very serious problem. In fact, the situation has gotten much worse with Somalia pirates getting more experience, becoming bolder in their tactics and raising the stakes considerably. What until now has for the most part been larceny on a large scale, now teeters on becoming much worse.
It’s impossible to imagine the nightmare that Captain Philips and his family are currently enduring; our thoughts and prayers go out to them. We hope that the international community will finally begin to treat the Somali pirate problem with the attention that it deserves. International mariners should not continue to risk their lives while the world stands by waiting for the problem to somehow mysteriously solve itself. Like so many issues in the world today, where’s the real leadership?
Original Post (April 20, 2008)
While Captains Feathersword and Jack Sparrow may present a friendly face to piracy through kids TV and blockbuster movies, the reality is that modern day pirates are no kidding matter. Make no mistake about it, pirates range from petty thieves to ruthless terrorists but in the end they are all dangerous criminals.
John S. Burnett, author of Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas wrote an interesting Op Ed essay for today’s – April 20, 2008 – Sunday NY Times entitled Captain Kidd, Human-Rights Victim. Please read it.
Burnett compares France’s recent show of force in successfully handling the hijacking of the French luxury cruise ship Ponant off the coast of Somalia to the British Foreign Office’s directorate to the Royal Navy not to detain any pirate because doing so would violate human rights. Pirates can claim UK asylum – The Sunday Times (UK) April 13, 2008.
High seas piracy remains a big problem for mariners around the world. Here’s a link to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau’s Weekly Piracy Report which demonstrates the frequency, seriousness and breadth of this issue. Below you will find their 2008 High Risk Areas. (Click here for direct access to map.)
It’s difficult to understand and tough to swallow the British Foreign Office’s position on piracy. It’s doubtful that a similar position has been established for would be airline hijackers or subway bombers. Why would a current sea power who in previously eras worked so hard at eradicating piracy across the globe express a position that appears to go soft on contemporary pirates (aka terrorists)?
I’m all for protecting human rights, but this doesn’t send the right message to the good men and women who sail the seas advancing maritime commerce or other important global interests.
Related post: Pirates Invade Wall Street Journal! (Nov. 19, 2008 )
Artwork: Matt Rota for NY Times
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