Although piracy at sea has been an issue for ocean going vessels for hundreds of years, today's modern shipping companies have been aware of the current threat since the early 1980's. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) was established in 1981 and in those early meetings and those of the United Nations Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), that the threat of piracy off the coast of West Africa was brought up by the Swedish government. The UN asked countries to report incidents of piracy to the IMO, but there was a distinct lack of co-operation. During the 1980's and early 1990's there were incidents of piracy reported to the IMO, but fewer than the true total. Many countries failed to report piracy acts due to the small value of goods taken, as well as not wanting bad publicity, upsetting trading partners, or increasing insurance costs. Shipping companies were wary of the cost of having vessels remaining in port while law enforcement investigated the crime.
Maritime piracy falls into two categories; those acts that occur while a vessel is in port, and the other while a vessel is at sea. A report stated that in 2003, over 90 percent of crimes of piracy that occurred while a vessel was in port were successful, while only 58 percent were successful while the vessel was at sea. However, the crimes at sea were more serious, with 57 deaths in 210 attacks in 2003. In addition, there were 13 hijackings with 193 hostages.
Responses to Piracy
Despite the growing number of piracy incidents since the 1980's shipping companies did not take actions to help their vessels combat the pirates. In the 1990's there were a number of anti-piracy measures that could thwart an attack, such as electric fences, water cannons and acoustic deterrents. The shipping companies made a financial decision based on the small number of incidents compared with the overall revenue of their maritime business.
Piracy Based In Somalia
Most people have been aware of maritime piracy due to the increasing level of piracy that has occurred in the waters off the coast of Somalia in the last five years. The first major incident was in 2008, when Somali pirates captured the MV Faina, a Ukrainian freighter carrying 33 T-72 Russian tanks and other weapons. The MV Faina was attacked some 200 miles from the Somali coast, and was sailed back to Somali waters. The pirates were soon joined by the USS Howard, which was sent to the area to ensure that no weapons were offloaded. The Somali pirates tried to ransom the ship, cargo and hostages for $35 million. After over five months, the ship was released after the owners negotiated and paid a ransom of $3.2 million. However, this incident changed the situation in the region with Russia saying it would send warships to escort its merchant vessels and their cargo through the area. This led to other nations, such as China, India, Japan and the EU following suit.
Despite the protection of the merchant ships, Somali pirates made 111 incidents in 2008, taking 815 crew hostage, and received an estimated $150 million in ransoms. After the taking of the MV Faina, pirates took a large crude carrier, Sirius Star, on 15 November 2008 some 450 miles from the Somali coastline. The Sirius Star was carrying 2 million barrels of oil, which was 25 percent of Saudi Arabia's daily production. The vessel was ransomed for $25 million, but allowed to leave after a ransom of $3 was paid on January 9th, 2009.
Despite the intervention of military forces and more awareness of the situation by shipping companies, the level of piracy off the coast of Somalia is still high. The rewards for pirates is still too great for them to give up on their endeavor, and shipping companies still have to move their http://logistics.about.com/od/legalandgovernment/a/Cargo-Screening-And-The-9-11-Commission-Act.htm through this area.