Piracy Around the World

Piracy Around the World

Pirates and piracy have been around as long as commerce and trade have occurred on the high seas. When speaking of pirates, we think of what could be identified as the "Golden Age" of piracy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when now-familiar names like Captain Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, and Black Beard ruled the seas. The truth of the matter is that ever since mankind had taken to using ships to transport goods and merchandise for profit, individuals have sought to make a profit from raiding those ships and stealing their cargo, while either holding the crew and passengers for ransom or selling them into slavery. Piracy is simply the theft of property on the oceans and seas.

The issue of piracy came once again to international attention in April 2009, when a group of Somali pirates kidnapped an American captain of the MV Maersk Alabama. An international audience learned what many involved in commercial shipping had known for years, that piracy was alive and well and living off the shores of the world’s most troubled nations. In early 2009, global hot spots for piracy included the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, the Straits of Malacca, and Indonesian waters, as well as spots off the coast of Nigeria and Brazil. International organizations, such as the United Nations, have ramped up efforts to combat piracy, but successful efforts require the cooperation of neighboring nations, which sometimes are unable to coordinate the elements of a solution due to political unrest.

Basic Terms, Concepts, and Definitions Related to Piracy

Barbary Corsair: Muslim pirates, operating from about the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries, from Algeria, Tunisia, Tripoli, and Morocco.

Letter  of  Marque: A formal document issued by a government to private ship masters authorizing them to search, seize, or attack an enemy’s vessel.

Pirate: One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation. The act of theft at sea is called piracy.

Privateer: A ship privately owned and crewed, but authorized by a government during war time to attack and capture enemy vessels.

Vandals: A tribe  of G ermanic barbarians who entered the Roman Empire in the fifth century and eventually conquered the Roman Province of North Africa.

Viking: One of a seafaring Scandinavian people who raided the coasts of Northern and Western Europe from the eighth through the tenth centuries.

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