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How To Defeat Piracy


A Somali pirate stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew.

Continued international cooperation is a key to minimizing the threat of piracy.

Recognizing piracy as a grave threat to world peace and security, the United Nations Security Council recently called for more rigorous prosecutions of pirates and more self-protective action by shipping companies, among other efforts.



Though often deadly for the men who carry out hijackings, piracy has been lucrative for the organizers on shore. The ransoms these organizers extort from victims have reached into the millions of dollars per ship.

The costs don’t end with the ransoms, the drag on the world economy has reached into the billions; recent estimates place the overall cost of piracy at approximately $7 billion per year.

However, the news is not all bad. According to a report submitted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in the first nine months of 2012, 99 ships were attacked by pirates off Somalia, of which 13 were hijacked. This is a sharp decline from the same period in 2011, when 269 attacks and 30 hijackings were reported.

The decline was in great part due to many ships carrying privately contracted armed security personnel, and to patrols by international navies, which prevented numerous attacks and captured hundreds of pirates. Unfortunately, many of those captured suspected pirates were released on Somali shores without prosecution.

Continued international cooperation is a key to minimizing the threat of piracy. Since 2009, the United States had partnered with nearly 70 nations and international organizations through the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and much of the progress that has been made in resisting piracy has been coordinated with or through this forum. If we are to eliminate this scourge, countries must criminalize piracy under their domestic laws.

Flag states, shipping states, regional governments and affected states should be willing to track, detain, prosecute, sentence and imprison convicted pirates, along with their facilitators and financiers, and they must share evidence, information and intelligence for anti-piracy law enforcement purposes.

“Effectively countering piracy requires action on multiple fronts,” said U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice. “The international community, in partnership with the private sector, has made impressive strides towards reducing the scourge of piracy. But our gains are not irreversible, and we cannot let up,” she said.

“We look forward to continued cooperation with and support from our international partners, action by private industry, and a sustained commitment by this Council to ensure that seafarers are protected, that international commerce is no longer threatened, and that the guilty are brought to justice.”
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