A columnist from the newspaper at Mr. Jefferson's University takes on piracy here. Perhaps a tad overly dramatic. And in reading it, remember that the IMB and other entities count robbing ships in port (or at anchor) as "piracy" whereas the classic definition involves ships on the "high seas."
According to a CNN report, most pirates, especially those in the Indian Ocean, are well trained fighters who don military uniforms, ride speedboats equipped with state-of-the-art GPS systems and wield weapons ranging from anti-tank rocket launchers to various types of grenades and automatic weapons.Of course, if I were at UVA, I might have tossed in something about Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary pirates.
Their objectives, however, remain equally crooked: targeting passenger, cargo and fishing vessels for ransom or loot with which buy weapons. The aid vessel was hijacked yesterday without its cargo since it had already made its delivery to Somalia, leading experts to believe that the motive could be to hold the 12 crew members for ransom. It was the third case of piracy involving a U.N. ship in Somali waters in just over a year.
The causes for this worrying phenomenon vary by nation, but Somalia and Bangladesh have long been blacklisted as the world's two biggest piracy hotspots by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the body that deals with naval issues ranging from security to commerce. In Somalia, a BBC report has suggested that the Islamist government that held power there last year was vigilant about cracking down on piracy.
Bangladesh's coastal region houses Chittagong, the world's most dangerous port due to rampant piracy. The region is also impoverished and lacks the resources to combat the security threat. Last year the IMB reported an alarmingly high 33 incidents of piracy in Bangladesh. In response, A.M. Shahadat Hossain, Chairman of the Chittagong Port Authority, dismissed the report as "bogus" according to Opinion Asia, illustrating that Bangladesh has not even acknowledged the full extent of the problem
Unlike Somalia, where attacks occur in open waters, 75 percent of Bangladeshi piracy incidents are carried out in port areas, showing an arguably non-existent level of security. Although the IMB has commended Bangladesh on its measures so far against piracy, such as joint naval-coastguard operations, there is clearly much more that needs to be done.
The international community must address the issue of sea piracy while being fully cognizant of the potential nexus between piracy and the vice of international terrorism. For example, The South Asia Analysis Group has noted that piracy is an integral part of the activities of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. There is no reason why Al Qaeda might shift its focus from spectacular airborne attacks to sea hijackings. The bombing of the USS Cole, after all, is still etched in the memory of US defense forces.
UPDATE: Speaking of the Barbary pirates, there's some interesting research on why they were so hard to catch at sea here.