What is Maritime Piracy? 

What is Maritime Piracy? 

In some circumstances, ship’s master could ask help of coast guard, navy at anchorage or police at pier. However, a ship is responsible for its own security against pirates, thieves and others.

A kidnapped ship might be used in connection with a terrorist action. Lately, there has been an upsurge in public awareness of piracy in the last few years because of movie Captain Phillips about pirate attacks against the container ship MV Maersk Alabama. Therefore, governments around the world adopted new ship security measures through increased port and cargo security requirements.

A ship’s captain is ultimately responsible for ship’s security and all matters affecting the ship. Ship security has been a matter of government regulation for many years. After 1985 Italian cruise ship MS Achille Lauro terrorist attack, passenger ship security was specifically improved. September 11, World Trade Center terrorist attacks triggered international action to protect ships from terrorist attack and prevent ships from being used by terrorists to conduct attacks.

United States Congress passed the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) and the United Nations (UN) International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the 2002 Amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, 1974 (SOLAS) containing requirements known as the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) authorized the United States Coast Guard to implement its provisions by an interim regulation which the Coast Guard promulgated on 1 July 2003 and finalized in 2007. International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) took effect on 1 July 2004. International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) is binding on all nations that are signatories to Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), including the United States.

Main purpose of both Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) and International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS):

  • to promote heightened security of ships and ports
  • to prevent terrorist and criminal acts against shipping
  • to prevent ocean shipping and its modalities from being used for terrorist attacks
  • International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) also promotes uniformity amongst ship and port security practices and facilitates the efficient exchange of security-related information.

Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) authorizes some federal government funding support for the adoption of security measures. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) places most of the responsibility for security on private parties.

Affected ships and port facilities are required to develop security plans, submit those plans to the federal government, adopt measures in accordance with those plans and report security incidents to the federal government. United States Coast Guard is the federal agency charged with administering Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA).

International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) directs countries to adopt security requirements applicable to port facilities in their territories, ships they register and ships entering their ports. United States Coast Guard incorporated by reference International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) into its security regulations on 22 October 2003. If a commercial cargo and passenger ship is registered in the United States or intend to enter United Sates waters, a ship must have a security plan.

United States Coast Guard inspects ships under its Port State Control (PSC) regime for compliance with security and safety requirements. Ships must undergo security assessment to identify potential vulnerabilities and risks. Ship security plan lays out methods of protecting against these vulnerabilities and risks. Ship security plan also appoints trained security officer both for the ship and for the ship operating company. Ships must also undergo periodic inspections to ensure compliance with their security plan. International Ship Security Certificate is an evidence for compliance with International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) requirements. When a ship that arrives in a port without valid International Ship Security Certificate, ship may be required to wait at anchorage until such a certificate is obtained. Hence, a ship may be subject to increased inspection and scrutiny.

Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) established new requirements for the identification and verification of crew members. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA) also established a regime requiring persons seeking unescorted access to port facilities and ships to hold transportation security cards issued by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Transportation Security Cards are called Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards. Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards are only issued after a background check is undertaken by United States Government. Foreign crew members are unlikely to hold Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards. Foreign crew members ability to go ashore is more limited.

Seafarers are granted shore leave by the Immigration Officers. Ship operator will be required to hire  minibus with an approved Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card holding driver.  Approved driver pick up seafarers from terminals and then to drive them to the city.

Required documents from ships arriving in United States waters:

  • advance Notice of Arrival with the United States Coast Guard
  • crew and cargo manifests with United States Customs and Border Protection

Piracy has long been an international crime. Piracy is the first universally recognized international crime.

Piracy definition set out in Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)’s piracy definition piracy consists of any of the following acts:

  • any illegal acts of violence or detention
  • any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passenger of a private ship or a private aircraft and directed:
  • On the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft
  • Against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State.

United States is not a party to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, United States is a party to the 1958 United Nations Convention on the High Seas. United Nations Convention on the High Seas has almost identical definition of piracy.

Piracy has existed since start of commercial seagoing commerce and has remained as peril of the sea. Before 2004, piracy was a significant threat in the Straits of Malacca. In the Straits of Malacca regional governments engaged in a concerted effort to remedy the piracy problem.

ln Somalia, piracy surged between 2005 and 2011. In Somalia, 149 ships have reportedly been ransomed for an estimated total of  around $385 million.

United States laws about Piracy:

  • Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution expressly grants the United States Congress the authority: To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the Law of Nations.
  • United States Federal law also states: Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.

United States Congress in 2010 amended United States law with regard to U.S.-flag ships and piracy and, and defined piracy as any act of aggression, search, restraint, depredation or  seizure attempted against a ship of the United States by an unauthorized person.

United States Constitution grants the United States Government the right to prosecute and punish acts of piracy outside of United States territorial jurisdiction on the high seas. Such extraterritorial jurisdiction is sanctioned under customary international law on the basis that piracy is a crime against all nations. Hence, each maritime nation has the right to punish perpetrators, without regard to whether their actions have any connection to that nation, to prevent lawlessness on the high seas.

U.S.-flag ships have an express right of self-defense from piracy. Under United States law, crew members may oppose and defend against any aggression, search, restraint, depredation or seizure, which shall be attempted by pirates.

United States Coast Guard issued Maritime Security (MARSEC) Directives and according to United States laws, all U.S.-flag ships must comply with Maritime Security (MARSEC) Directives. Maritime Security (MARSEC) Directive (104-6) mandates that Ship Security Plans include anti-piracy measures. United States Federal law was amended in 2012.and require federal agencies shipping cargoes through high risk areas to provide U.S.-flag ships with armed personnel or reimburse ship owners for the cost of providing such armed personnel.

Ship owners can obtain insurance to cover ransom payments. Generally, war risk insurance coverage covers the payment of ransom to recover damage to ship and crew members. Specific kidnap and ransom insurance is also available. Specific kidnap and ransom insurance may duplicate the war risk coverage. Ransom payments may be illegal in certain situations.

Fraudulent practices undertaken by captain or crew members of a ship against the interests of the ship owner is called barratry. Barratry occurs if captain or crew members engage in smuggling, trading with enemy, plunder or destroy cargo or a ship.

A person who hides aboard a ship for the purpose of obtaining unauthorized passage aboard the vessel is called stowaway. Ship charters generally allocate responsibility for stowaways among in charter parties. Generally, ship owner is the person who is responsible for securing discovered stowaways. When a stowaway is found on board of a ship, ship owner afford stowaway reasonable treatment until stowaway can be turned over to the responsible authorities at the ship’s next port of call.

Maritime Piracy

Piracy has been a concern for traders since the inception of maritime trade by humanity. Throughout the course of human history, distant and coastal civilized societies have established connections and engaged in trade via the sea. While road and rail are predominantly utilized for inland trade and transportation, they are generally deemed too costly for long-distance shipping. Nevertheless, even in the present day, physical goods are transported via maritime routes for international destinations, despite advancements in technology. Currently, approximately 90% of global trade is conducted through maritime means, and about 25% of this trade traverses shipping routes that are prone to piracy. Hence, it is reasonable to consider maritime piracy as a significant impediment to international trade.

In today’s interconnected world, trade activities conducted by sea are vulnerable to piracy threats and attacks. The incidence of pirate attacks on shipping vessels has risen dramatically in recent years, directly contributing to increased shipping costs and indirectly impacting international trade. While piracy today may not resemble the portrayal in Hollywood movies, there has been limited research exploring the effects and consequences of pirate activities on international trade. Piracy can be perceived as theft or raids on merchant ships.

The actions of pirates extend beyond ship attacks and encompass the kidnapping of crews for ransom, damage to ship equipment and property, and cargo theft. These illicit activities not only disrupt regional trade but also have repercussions for global maritime transportation and commerce. Pirate attacks against shipping vessels primarily occur in strategically significant chokepoints such as the Malacca or Singapore Straits, the Suez Canal, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the Gulf of Aden. Establishing a pirate community requires minimal investment, making it easy to recruit investors.

Consequently, the number of pirate vessels is likely to increase, posing an unavoidable threat to merchant ships. Areas infiltrated by pirates are considered hazardous zones that vessels should avoid, often necessitating route diversions that lead to increased time and operational expenses. These additional costs affect freight rates and, consequently, have adverse impacts on businesses and customers. Furthermore, security services and insurance premiums for ships navigating pirate-infested waters, as well as the costs associated with injured, killed, or captured crew members, contribute to the overall expenses. However, accurately quantifying the total cost incurred by pirate attacks and their impact on international trade is a challenging task.

The cost of piracy to the shipping industry and the consequences of pirate attacks on international trade are undeniable facts. Nonetheless, there is currently a lack of comprehensive studies within the existing literature that examine the economic implications of maritime piracy. Owing to the escalating number of piracy incidents in recent years, shipping companies have redirected their container ships to travel via the Cape of Good Hope instead of the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal. Consequently, this change has resulted in significant increases in both monetary costs and time. Recognizing this deficiency is a crucial starting point for considering the effects of maritime piracy on the global economy.


Current Maritime Piracy

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) provides the following definition of piracy: it is the act of boarding any vessel with the intent to commit theft or any other criminal activity, employing force in furtherance of said act. Maritime piracy encompasses illegal acts at sea that involve the use or threat of violence, though not necessarily robbery. Recognizing pirate activities as criminal enables states to enforce legal statutes on the seas and justify employing power to safeguard marine commercial activities from pirate assaults.

The initial definition of piracy was established by the Geneva Convention on the High Seas in 1958 and subsequently adopted by the UN 1982 Convention. Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) outlines piracy as “illegal acts of violence, detention, or depredation committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or private aircraft directed on the high seas against another ship, aircraft, or persons or property on board such vessel or aircraft.” Such acts are classified as piracy. Maritime piracy can transpire against a ship, individuals, or property beyond the jurisdiction of any state, thereby exemplifying the concept of universal jurisdiction.

Presently, three common types of pirate activities occur in global waters. “Anchorage attacks” involve pirates targeting vessels in harbors, taking advantage of the favorable circumstances prevalent in ports worldwide. These assaults are characterized by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as low-level armed robberies, with the aim of confiscating cash and portable items from the crew. The second type involves pirate activity in territorial waters or on the high seas, where well-equipped pirates engage in looting and robbing vessels. These attacks, described by the IMB as medium-level armed robberies, often result in injuries or casualties. The final type of pirate attack entails seizing vessels for illicit trading purposes, commonly known as the “phantom ship” phenomenon. These assaults are referred to as major criminal hijackings by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The illegal act of piracy must occur in a location beyond the jurisdiction of any state or not subject to state sovereignty. Consequently, maritime piracy involves unlawful activities and violence transpiring in international waters. In contrast, identical acts within national waters are deemed maritime robberies. The only distinction lies in the location where the illegal act is perpetrated. The definition of piracy varies in domestic laws. While some national laws, such as those of the US and UK, require the illegal act to occur on the high seas to qualify as piracy, others, like Australia, encompass acts committed either on the high seas or within territorial waters. Consequently, several international meetings have been convened, aiming to establish a uniform definition through international treaties and regulations. Despite these endeavors, it would be premature to assert that a definitive consensus has been reached. Additionally, determining which law should be applied to cases involving illegal acts of piracy presents a critical challenge, given the variation in the definition of piracy across legal systems—whether international law or national law should prevail. Furthermore, over 75 percent of assaults take place in territorial waters and ports. Consequently, based on the definition of piracy outlined in the UN 1982 Convention, these attacks are not considered piracy.

Maritime crime and maritime security call for two distinct yet complementary approaches. While the negative approach focuses on protection against sea-based threats, the positive approach underscores sustainable utilization of marine resources. Moreover, an interdisciplinary approach involving expertise is essential for addressing these issues. Despite the existence of definitions for maritime piracy established by international organizations, sovereign states possess their own definitions within their legal systems. The types of illegal activities considered piracy and whose laws should be applied within the territories of sovereign states need to be clarified. The complexity surrounding maritime piracy poses challenges in effectively combating and eradicating piracy, both within territorial waters and on the high seas. Consequently, it is evident that the international community struggles to reach a consensus on a universally agreed definition of piracy.

Furthermore, it is important to highlight that piracy extends beyond mere criminal activities; it also raises concerns regarding maritime crime and maritime security, necessitating a comprehensive approach. While the negative approach aims to protect against sea-based threats, the positive approach emphasizes the sustainable utilization of maritime resources. Achieving success in addressing these issues requires an interdisciplinary approach and expertise.

Despite the existence of established definitions for maritime piracy by international organizations, individual sovereign states maintain their own unique definitions within their legal systems. Therefore, clarifying the specific activities that constitute piracy and determining which laws should be applied in the territorial waters of sovereign states remains a crucial task. Resolving these complexities is essential for effectively combating piracy and reaching a consensus within the international community.

In conclusion, the act of piracy is defined as the unlawful boarding of a vessel with the intention to commit theft or other crimes, employing force if necessary. It encompasses illegal acts at sea involving violence or the threat thereof, although not necessarily robbery. The definition of piracy, initially established by the Geneva Convention on the High Seas in 1958 and subsequently adopted by the UN 1982 Convention, has provided a basis for international recognition. Nevertheless, ongoing efforts are required to reconcile variations in national laws and definitions, as well as to address the challenges posed by piracy in territorial waters and ports.


Causes of Maritime Piracy

The underlying causes of piracy incidents encompass both economic and humanitarian factors. Piracy incidents are rooted in two pivotal aspects. These factors revolve around the substantial trade volume conducted by sea and the narrow waterway choke points that shipping vessels must navigate. Alongside these primary reasons, several other facilitating factors contribute to the prevalence of piracy, such as the reduction in crew size due to technological advancements, limited resources of states for monitoring coastal areas and territorial waters, and the absence of maritime police or coastal security. Furthermore, wherever maritime trade is thriving and a state of anarchy and lack of authority persists, pirate activities become a common occurrence.

The primary causes of piracy can be summarized as follows:

• The maritime routes for bilateral trade pass through narrow, congested, and perilous waterway choke points that are in proximity to areas where criminal activities thrive.

• In tandem with the growth of international trade by sea, there is an increase in marine traffic and the number of ports.

• Insufficiency and absence of a central government leading to political instability, corruption, bribery, loopholes in the legal system, and preferential treatment due to civil wars.

• The repercussions of the financial crisis, low wages, soaring food prices, and unemployment, among other factors.

• Inadequate surveillance and inspection along coastal areas and ports.

• Former fishermen turning into sea bandits, defending their fish resources against ships from other nations.

• Insufficiency of naval police and security forces in the aforementioned regions.

• Successful attacks on vessels through the use of more sophisticated and destructive methods, resulting in substantial ransom payments.

As observed in the past, it remains evident that acts of piracy continue to occur today for similar reasons, and the underlying motivations behind pirate attacks appear to remain unaltered. Although the methods employed by pirates vary, it is unmistakable that pirate assaults pose considerable economic and humanitarian risks to maritime commerce. The geographical, social, and political contexts that fuel pirate activities serve as determinants for the diverse tactics embraced by these seafaring outlaws.

Consequently, in different regions of the world, pirates employ distinct strategies and target varying types of vessels, despite the near-identical driving forces behind their engagement in acts of piracy. While numerous factors contribute to piracy, the navigation of congested and narrow waterways renders shipping companies’ vessels vulnerable to pirate onslaughts. However, it is the ungoverned territories in proximity to critical chokepoints, where anarchy prevails and a dearth of central governance leads to loopholes in the legal system, that serve as havens for pirates to harbor, sell their plunder, repair their vessels, and create an environment conducive to piracy. Considering that a significant portion of international trade—approximately 90 percent—is conducted through maritime transport, the primary shipping routes traversing narrow waterways like the Strait of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden present optimal opportunities for pirates to assail and board cargo ships, often deploying speedboats under the control of a mothership.

Piracy can be minimized or eradicated altogether if it can be established without incurring any entry costs. This is because pirates would be unable to target large vessels and would be compelled to focus on weaker and smaller ships along the coast. However, while shipping companies would manage to repel such attacks, the expenses borne by these companies in international trade would surge. Additionally, it has been postulated that pirates would amass significantly more power if they were to unify under a centralized authority, devoid of internal competition.

Consequently, piracy may become an appealing alternative to legitimate trade. The growth of international trade, coupled with the vulnerabilities of commercial vessels in terms of defense, serves as the underlying impetus for piracy. Weak maritime nations pose a greater challenge than failed states, as they provide the necessary markets and infrastructure for piracy to thrive. Under these circumstances, pirates capitalize on the opportunities presented by the black market to sustain their operations.

Although the actual acts of piracy are executed at sea, the roots of these activities are anchored on land. Hence, the international community must adopt comprehensive preventive measures not only offshore but also onshore to effectively combat piracy. Considering all these factors, economic, political, and geographical elements can be deemed pivotal in shaping pirate activities.

Economically speaking, regions with lower GDP (Gross Domestic Product) are more likely to experience higher incidences of piracy, and states with elevated unemployment rates are prone to reporting greater numbers of piracy-related incidents.

Politically, weaker coastal states will witness a higher concentration of reported piracy incidents. Lastly, the proximity of a state to chokepoints directly correlates with the frequency of piracy incidents, and as maritime trade volumes continue to rise over the years, the occurrences of piracy will also escalate.


Impact of Maritime Piracy on International Trade

Maritime piracy causes millions of dollars additional burden on shipping companies’ costs per year when opportunity costs are taken into consideration. These costs encompass ransom payments, insurance premiums, expenses for redirecting vessels, procurement of security equipment to safeguard against pirate attacks, and the economic burden on regional economies. Each state bears its own expenses, while other states exploit these expenditures, and some even incur additional costs to facilitate the establishment of regional enforcement facilities. Maritime pirate activities continue to impose a net financial strain. When considering opportunity costs, maritime piracy imposes millions of dollars in additional expenses on shipping companies annually.

It has come to light how pirate activities have impacted the economic values and global development in the Somali region. The actions of maritime piracy cause substantial losses amounting to $30 billion annually in the region’s global economy. Moreover, the traffic volume along the Far East-Europe route would decrease by approximately 30% without the efforts of governments. Hence, the significance of international cooperation has been underscored to mitigate the welfare and efficiency losses arising from pirate activities in the region.

Maritime piracy incidents in specific regions of the world compel shipping companies to avoid these areas by rerouting their vessels, resulting in additional costs. Furthermore, vessels traversing pirate-infested waters must pay exorbitant insurance premiums to cover potential losses in the event of assaults. The economic impact of piracy on shipping lines that opt for rerouting to evade known trouble spots is substantial. Employing a comparative voyage costing approach, rerouting incurs considerable expenses. Fuel costs soar due to the altered routes, contributing millions of dollars to the total expenditure when accounting for opportunity costs. Furthermore, more pirates are released than the number of pirates prosecuted each year due to the absence of national laws criminalizing piracy in many countries, coupled with insufficient evidence to convict suspects. Although the measures implemented have proven effective in preventing physical attacks and damages, concerns and anxieties are progressively mounting, necessitating greater international cooperation in this regard.

Maritime piracy exerts a significant and far-reaching impact on the global economy. The presence of politically and economically vulnerable and failed states along maritime trade routes jeopardizes and undermines trade between Europe and Asia. The reduction in trade barriers has facilitated the entry of small firms into international markets, but the disadvantage of high shipping costs between Europe and Asia undermines European interests vis-à-vis their competitors in Asia’s expanding markets. Trade between Europe and Asia is severely affected by maritime piracy. In recent years, piracy activities in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden have witnessed a substantial increase in terms of both impact and cost.

The historical evolution of piracy in the Indian Ocean holds commercial significance in this region. An examination of the Indian Ocean in relation to the global economy sheds light on the effects of pirate activities on the economic cycle and their ramifications. The Eurocentric view has long overlooked the rise and development of the Indian Ocean World (IOW) global economy. Additionally, maritime commerce in the Indian Ocean World (IOW) is characterized by a sophisticated network spanning from Africa to the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Far East. There exists a clear correlation between upturns in the Indian Ocean World (IOW) global economy and piratical activity. However, piracy also appears to increase during economic downturns, possibly reflecting economic uncertainty. In other words, a significant relationship has been identified between the nature and frequency of piracy acts and their economic implications.

Both in the short and long term, pirate attacks exert a substantial influence on international maritime trade. The trade flow of vessels passing through areas plagued by pirate activities is profoundly impacted. A comparative analysis of the data reveals that an increase in the number of pirate attacks results in an approximate 10 percent rise in shipping costs. This escalation in costs can be attributed to heightened expenses in insurance and security measures in regions affected by piracy. The long-term effects of pirate activities on international trade indicate that the impact of pirate attacks persists even after several years.

The effects of piracy on tankers transporting petroleum through the Strait of Hormuz and energy exports have been thoroughly examined. The findings illustrate a decline in tanker transit, with significant repercussions on the export of refined oil from Bahrain and Kuwait. Although few substantial long-term effects have been observed, the implications of piracy on energy-related trade warrant attention and vigilance.

How to deal with the Maritime Piracy

Most instances of maritime piracy occur within territorial waters rather than on the international seas. If there is a lack of political resolve to suppress or control piracy, regardless of the reasons, piracy will persist. Maritime piracy is not a static activity confined to a specific area or region. It is intricately intertwined with global economic development, corporate strategies, and government policies. By acknowledging this issue, we fill a void in the literature that has traditionally treated maritime piracy as a non-dynamic activity separate from the impact of global economic trends, institutional strategies, and government policies.

A certain level of state weakness is necessary for pirate attacks to occur. Weak or failed states provide transportation infrastructure for pirates to transport their plunder, repair their vessels and weapons, and benefit from a black market that enables the sale of stolen goods. In comparison to failed states, weak maritime states offer better conditions for piracy to thrive. However, engaging in maritime pirate activities requires significantly more investment in vessels, weaponry, and human resources than economically disadvantaged states can afford. Local authorities directly fund most maritime piracy activities, which are often argued to be conducted under a command hierarchy with military discipline and organization. Additionally, pirates receive a share of the looted goods, and compensation is provided to the widows of slain maritime pirates. Hence, the humanitarian aspect of pirate activities should not be overlooked.

Undoubtedly, maritime piracy still imposes a substantial financial burden. When considering opportunity costs, it causes millions of dollars in additional expenses for shipping companies each year. Failure to take necessary precautions against pirate activities by both states and international organizations will lead to significant repercussions for international trade and transport, affecting economies at various stages of development. The cost inflicted by piracy on the global economy and international trade is immense.

To witness a decline in pirate activities, leaders of maritime states where piracy is prevalent, such as Somalia and Nigeria, must successfully govern their countries. These leaders should strive to integrate their states more effectively into the global economy. It is crucial to consider the security challenges posed by state weakness when attempting to rebuild the economies and political institutions of failed or weak states. The ongoing pandemic has adversely affected the economies of numerous countries, exacerbating poverty among the already disadvantaged populations. Economic conditions not only breed social unrest but also instigate political turmoil.

Consequently, the menace of piracy is expected to intensify in the coming years. The international community must adopt proactive measures rather than reactive ones to eradicate piracy. To address the piracy problem effectively, we must understand its underlying causes and factors that contribute to its facilitation. Implementing precautionary measures in regions plagued by intense piracy incidents, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria, and Indonesia, where economic issues such as political instability, hunger, and unemployment prevail, is likely to foster peace. Offering financial and military aid to these regions to improve the welfare of the people and ensure their security represents a comprehensive solution to end piracy. Additionally, regulations and international agreements should be established to address potential legal complications, such as determining which country holds jurisdiction and how pirates captured on the high seas are to be prosecuted.


Defining Maritime Piracy

Article 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) determines that Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).


Defining Armed Robbery Against Ships

Resolution A.1025(26) (Annex, paragraph 2.2) on IMO’s Code of Practice for the Investigation of the Crimes of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships, determines that armed robbery against ships consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal act of violence or detention or any act of depredation, or threat thereof, other than an act of piracy, committed for private ends and directed against a ship or against persons or property on board such a ship, within a State’s internal waters, archipelagic waters and territorial sea;

(b) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described above.”



International Maritime Organization (IMO) Maritime Piracy Reports

IMO issues incident reports concerning piracy and armed robbery targeting ships based on data provided by Member Governments and relevant international organizations. The initial reports were published in 1982. Since July 2002, the monthly and annual piracy and armed robbery reports by International Maritime Organization (IMO) have distinguished between reported acts or attempted acts of piracy in international waters and armed robbery against ships in territorial waters.

These reports, which encompass various details such as the names and descriptions of the assaulted vessels, the incidents’ locations and timestamps, the impact on the crew, ship, or cargo, and the response actions taken by the crew and coastal authorities, are disseminated on a monthly basis. Subsequently, a comprehensive annual report is released at the beginning of the second quarter of the following year. Additional information on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships can be accessed by the public (subject to registration) through IMO’s Piracy and Armed Robbery module within the Organization’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).

We kindly suggest that you visit the web page of International Maritime Organization (IMO) to learn more about Maritime Piracy and to obtain IMO Piracy Reports. www.imo.org


Regional Cooperation Among Maritime Nations

Regional collaboration among nations plays a crucial role in addressing the issue of piracy and armed robbery against maritime vessels, as exemplified by the achievements of the regional agreement and associated operations in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has provided and continues to offer assistance throughout the development and implementation processes.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (RECAAP), established in November 2004 by 16 Asian countries, became effective in September 2006. It encompasses the RECAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC), which promotes the exchange of information concerning piracy and armed robbery incidents. RECAAP serves as an exemplary model of a cohesive and successful regional cooperative framework that the IMO aims to replicate worldwide.

In recent times, significant attention has been devoted to combating piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Aden, the broader Western Indian Ocean, and the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. While notable progress has been made to combat piracy, armed robbery, and other illicit maritime activities in these regions, ships are advised to maintain vigilance while navigating through these areas due to the persistent threat of piracy. It is important to note the increasingly precarious situation on land in Somalia.

Countering Maritime Piracy Originating from Somalia

In January 2009, a significant regional accord was adopted in Djibouti by participating nations at a high-level conference organized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC), addressing the Suppression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Vessels in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, acknowledges the pervasive issue of piracy and armed robbery in the region. Within it, the signatories express their determination to collaborate to the maximum extent possible, while upholding international law, to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships.

The signatories pledge to actively share and report pertinent information through a network of national focal points and information centers. They also commit to intercepting vessels suspected of engaging in acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, apprehending and prosecuting individuals involved in such criminal acts, and facilitating appropriate care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers, fishermen, shipboard personnel, and passengers who have fallen victim to piracy or armed robbery. This is especially critical for those who have experienced violence.


Countering Maritime Piracy Originating from West Africa (WAFR)

International Maritime Organization (IMO), together with the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), formulated in July 2008 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) centered around establishing a sub-regional integrated Coast Guard Function Network in West and Central Africa. This initiative aims to provide a comprehensive framework for cooperation and guidance in the implementation of the Network. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which has garnered the signatures of 15 coastal States in the region, seeks to foster collaborative endeavors in the realm of maritime activities, encompassing the preservation of human life, the enforcement of laws, and the enhancement of safety and environmental protection.

In a more recent development, a Code of Conduct pertaining to the suppression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and unlawful maritime operations in West and Central Africa was officially ratified during a meeting of Heads of State held in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, on 25 June 2013. Subsequently, ministerial representatives from 22 States affixed their signatures to the Code. Building upon the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the integrated coastguard function network in West and Central Africa, this Code incorporates various elements from the Djibouti Code of Conduct, a regional agreement addressing piracy for East African States. However, its scope is considerably broader as it encompasses a wide range of illicit activities at sea, including illegal fishing, drug smuggling, and piracy.

We kindly suggest that you visit the web page of International Maritime Organization (IMO) to learn more about Maritime Piracy and to obtain the IMO/MOWCA MoUs and IMO Guidance. www.imo.org


BIMCO Piracy Clause for Charter Parties

We kindly suggest that you visit the web page of BIMCO (Baltic and International Maritime Council) to learn more about Piracy Clause for Charter Parties and to obtain the original Charter Party forms and documents. www.bimco.org