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Posted by on Mar 17, 2009 in Safety and Seamanship, UK, US | 1 comment

Nothing Simple About Piracy

What do pirates look like and why has the waterway between Yemen and Somalia has become so dangerous?

Suspected Somali pirates fleeing the scene.

Suspected Somali pirates flee German navy in early March.

The waterway between Yemen and Somalia has become so dangerous that many cruising circumnavigators who might’ve headed for the Red Sea and the Suez Canal now take the long way around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. I have followed the depressing increase in piracy over the last few years, only slightly relieved that it’s the heavy metal that seems to get most of the attention…commercial shipping! At the same time, the cruising sailors’ website started by Jimmy Cornell, Noonsite, carries close to 40 reports  about piracy in 2008 that make fascinating reading.

When I saw this yesterday in the Boat Bits blog, it led me to these remarkable pictures at Boston.com. I’d been feeling better that the navies of the world were starting to take action in policing this piracy, and these pictures back me up, but looking at how skinny the pirates are, I started to wonder. Then I followed a link to this column in Huffington Post that offers an explanation we don’ t hear every day, which provides some justification from the pirates’ point of view. I’m not going to tell you what to think in this case; I’m not yet sure what I think. But being a journalist and knowing there are usually two sides to every story, I’m starting to wonder.

Lawless acts at sea cannot be condoned, but bringing environmental and economic justice to all shores might be a parallel objective of as much importance as stronger enforcement.

—John Burnham

1 Comment

  1. Sir,

    I am shocked by your report and especially the link to a defense of piracy in the Huffington Post. Giving any justification to these lawless acts erodes the rule of law. The motivation for piracy is the theft of value created by others, not the defense of a country’s sovereignty or ecology. While noble in its sentiments, “bringing environmental and economic justice to all shores” is the type of mission that has led to interventionism and quickly fans anti-western sentiment. We have seen the results of this kind of mission in Mogadishu.

    People engaging in criminal activity on the high seas need to tried as criminals. This is perhaps one of the few areas where an international tribunal should be formed. The marine industry should be unanimous in its condemnation of these acts.