Issues, Challenges and National Policies
Comparative Perspectives on Transportation Security series
Edited by Khalid Bichou, Joseph S. Szyliowicz and Luca Zamparini
Ancient Romans considered pirates to be enemies of the human race (hostes humani generis). Pirates (Thracian) first turned up in the early sixth century BCE in the Mediterranean Sea (Andersen et al., 2009) and since then they have repeatedly made their presence felt in different geographical hotspots and time periods throughout history. In the early twenty-first century, almost 90 per cent of global trade (and 60 per cent of crude oil trade) is seaborne (UNCTAD, 2011), a fact that renders maritime piracy a clear and present danger to global growth and prosperity. In the early and mid 1990s, piracy used to revolve in and around the Malacca Straits in South East Asia, a 900 km (550 miles) narrow sea lane skirting Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Close cooperation among the above littoral nations supported through donors' funds (mainly Japanese) led the phenomenon to subside long before the turn of the century. Since 2005, the international community has observed a remarkable surge of piracy in the West Indian Ocean, off the Somali Shelf, the Horn of Africa, around the Gulf of Aden and (lately) in the Arabian Sea. This fairly recent development in the millennia-long timeline of the scourge is of a different nature though. It has repeatedly involved kidnap hijackings. The aim in similar cases is not merely to commandeer ship (and cargo), but intriguingly, to hold vessel and crew to ransom.
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