The pirate-terrorist nexus is becoming a favorite speculation of maritime security consultants. The myth that pirates are hijacking ships to learn how to drive them for future September 11-style attacks has been around since at least early 2004. But it does not withstand the test of veracity or logic. The attack on the Dewi Madrim, the case most often cited (by Luft and Korin and others), was in no way different from other attacks by pirates in southeastern Asia: the crew was immobilized, money and equipment were stolen, the ship was "handled" in some minimal way, and the pirates left with their loot. There is no evidence that it was a terrorist attack. Moreover, logic argues against such an interpretation: hijacking would be a very inefficient way to get training, which would be good only for an identical ship in identical conditions. And in any case, the sobering reality is that no specialized training is needed to drive a ship into a bridge, a port facility, or another ship.
The so-called al Qaeda merchant fleet has been a staple of threat scenarios for even longer than the terrorist-pirate link. But it has as little foundation in reality and has never been blamed by relevant authorities for ships stolen on the high seas and anonymously returned to service....Charles N. Dragonette...is an authority on piracy at the Office of Naval Intelligence.