Good Company

Good Company
Good Company

Friday, February 25, 2011

Where the Somali Pirates Operate and Why

Some people ask, "How do the Somali pirates know where the ships they hijack are going to be?"

There have been allegations of the selling of sailing plans by industry insiders to Somali pirate spies. Not much evidence has been proffered to support that theory, but there may be some truth in it. Another allegation is that the pirates are using Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals to track targets. Others assert intercepted radio signals are being used. All of these assertions may be true in part.

I would argue, however, that the most common way Somali pirates find ships is by the pirates planting themselves on known shipping lanes. Here, let me illustrate:

First, from the ICC CSS/IMB Live Piracy Map 2011, a look at attacks so far in 2010:
Then, from a draft EU MSC(HOA) and ISAF yachting safety guide (see here), a "snapshot" of 2010 shipping in the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea area:
 See the major shipping lanes?

Now, with a little Photoshop magic, I combine the two (as well as I can, given the scales and other differences):

What do you end up with? It shouldn't be a surprise - the pirates mostly attack shipping in the heavily trafficked shipping lanes.

Which answers the "where." The "why" is answered by that old Willie Sutton line about why he robbed banks, "because that's where the money is."

Apply "Sutton's Law" to the Somali pirates and the "why" question about where they strike is evident. "That's where the ships are."

Now, how do counter-pirate forces find the pirates who are going to attack ships? Figure it out for yourself. It's not complicated.


  1. Anonymous8:01 PM

    Can you get in touch with me at We LOVE your blog! Great work!!

  2. Anonymous8:35 PM

    You might find my articles useful.

  3. Illuminating presentation. I suppose they will call you to the puzzle palace to place your wisdom on Power Point Slides where they shall be forgotten and never acted on.
    Sorry, that was pent up bile. Lets hope some one somewhere reads your posts and acts on the information provided.