Society - Culture
By: - at August 25, 2013

Top 15 Modern Day Pirates

pirate opening a chest of treasureThe subject of pirates is one of mystery, intrigue, terror, and swashbuckling all combined into one amazing category. Pirates have always been a part of history, dating back to 14th century BC in the Mediterranean Sea. As long as there has been trade, there have been people looking for ways to steal and profit from it. The Illyrians were some of the first seafaring people who became pirates. They stem from the Greek and Roman cultures, which also implemented early stages of piracy. The thought of Roman soldiers pillaging other countries through naval means is a terrifying thought. Early forms of piracy were clever and ingenious due to the fact that countries were not prepared to deal with them. Pirates of all sorts were able to plunder other ships with ease, and it became more common to see pirate ships patrolling the sea between 1000 BC and the 1st Century BC. To many, pirates represent a group of people who enjoy the sea and also enjoy taking things from others.

pirate flag ship on parchmentThe Golden Age of Pirates was between the mid-1600s and early 1700s. This era experienced a huge growth in the amount of pirates in the seas, as well as an increase in the danger level of sailing from one point to another. There are some classic and renowned novels created that take place in this era; you may know a few, including "Treasure Island" and "Peter Pan." Pirates would continue to operate for the next few centuries, and recent events have seen a surge in the overall world population of pirates. Piracy reached a peak in 2010, with over 440 reported attacks in the sea. This means that there were 1.3 attacks per day and these are just the attacks that were reported. Many of the pirates today use vicious tactics and can potentially end up slaughtering an entire crew if they deem it necessary.

The following is a look into 15 of the most notorious groups of modern day pirates roaming the seas today. If you're planning on going for a yacht cruise by yourself this year, make sure you understand the risks that are there when traveling in an area where pirates are prevalent.


15)  Somalian Pirates
Probably the most well-known and most publicized occurrences of piracy are the attacks of Somalian pirates. You wouldn't want to get caught in the sights of these corsairs; they are known to use grenades and automatic machine guns in order to subdue other vessels. Piracy around Somalian waters started to drastically increase in 2005, after the Somalian Civil War. The United Nations reported that the majority of the pirates traveling the seas today were originally fishermen. Due to overfishing and overcrowding, these once ordinary men felt it necessary to take up arms and plunder other ships in order to provide for their families. The UN reported 151 attacks in 2011, 24 more than the previous year of 2010. The reason attacks are going up is because more fishermen are deciding to take up piracy. With the amount of cheap weaponry and ammunition available in this African country, men are able to arm themselves to the teeth for a relatively cheap price. What makes these Somali pirates so deadly is their lack of care for others.

Examples of Somalian Pirates
Examples of Somalian Pirates

Most of the pirates today are young, with a majority being under the age of 30. Local fishermen are the brains of most Somali pirate ships, because of their skill and knowledge of the local sea. Ex-militia men are also quite common to join the ranks of Somali pirates, due to the fact that they had previously fought for local warlords, and do not know a life without bloodshed. This, coupled with money, drug, respect, and alcoholism, make these pirates extremely deadly. When not plundering yachts and fishing ships, Somalian pirates spend their off time attacking other pirate ships. The Somali Pirates get all of their weaponry from Yemen. In November of 2008, Somali Pirates started to hijack ships that were well outside of their normal territory. The sophistication and ferocity of these attacks also began to increase, during this time. The Somalian pirates mainly target large cargo ships, oil tankers, and private yachts that manage to get caught in their targets. This is why these infamous men start off the list of modern day pirates. Somalian pirates are defiantly not the type of individuals you would want to run into while out yachting out on the ocean in your multi-million dollar super yacht. 


14)  Caribbean Pirates
The Caribbean has seen its fair share of pirates plundering ships around the area for many centuries. The modern pirates of the Caribbean have changed their style significantly, yet they still retain a few of the old school pirate mentalities. Caribbean pirates are now modern, many choosing not to use ships in order to plunder their victims. The drug trade within the islands has become a huge industry, and modern pirates spend their time transferring these drugs across all the islands of the Caribbean. The law enforcement is quite lax and public officials on the islands have been known for being extremely pliable.

Pirate Ship Sailing Off the Coast of The Cayman Islands
Pirate Ship Sailing Off the Coast of The Cayman Islands

Pirates used to bribe the law in order to keep their illegal activities afloat, and to limit any naval interference from the British Crown. However, there are accounts of some pirate captains being commissioned by the British Navy to aid in search missions, as well as military skirmishes. The participating pirates were paid as mercenaries by the British government Modern Caribbean pirates do not spend their entire time on a boat. Generally, these pirates engage in legal activity and carry day jobs as well. What makes them so deadly is their ability to seemingly blend in with society, and attack other ships when they least expect it. Caribbean pirates are just as dangerous as others around the world. These pirates engage in plundering of both shops on land and ships at sea, and have been known to murder those who do not comply. Be careful when planning your next trip to Caribbean. Make sure you bring lots of sunscreen and do some research about anti-piracy measures before going.


13)  Piracy in the Strait of Malacca
Although these pirates aren't as rampant as they were in the beginning of the 20th century, this area is still considered quite dangerous and you're likely to see a modern pirate every now and then. The Strait of Malacca is a series of islands between Singapore and Malaysia that is typically used for cargo ships as well as oil transportation. The IMB states that pirate attacks in this area account for around 30-40 percent of attacks annually.

Map of The Strait of Malacca
Map of The Strait of Malacca

That's almost half the amount of piracy in the entire world. The pirates in this area are known to kidnap and commandeer entire ships for a brief period of time, transferring the cargo to other smaller ships. Typically, these swashbucklers are looking for cash, ship parts, ship stores, and personal property from the crew members. You're in for a bad day if you manage to get caught by these modern Malacca Pirates.


12)  South East Asian Pirates
While the Strait of Malacca is a big area for pirates, South East Asia also has pirates roaming the rest of the seas, too. Piracy peaked in 2000 at 242 (half of the 460 incidents recorded). In 2009, this changed, and there were only 45 incidents. Anti-piracy efforts have halted many pirates in areas around South East Asia. In countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand commercial  vessels are cooperating with law enforcement, making it easier for cargo ships to traverse through the sea unharmed.

Map of South East India Isles
Map of South East India Isles

Pirates in South East Asia are just as ruthless as their counterparts in Africa. There is a wide variety of cargo shipments that go through South East Asian waters on a daily basis. Cargo shipping remains the largest way to import and export goods in South East Asia. That means it's the perfect territory for pirates to loot and plunder their way to getting rich.


11)  Indonesian Pirates
Indonesia has a total of around 17,500 islands. That is a huge amount of territory that's perfect for pirates to hide and wait for unsuspecting ships to pounce on. The waters of and around Indonesia are currently the world's most heavily pirated area. Pirates in these areas are armed with knives, guns, grenades, and an occasional RPG. Pirates in Indonesia are known to be quick and ferocious, quickly boarding a boat and subduing everyone on the ship. The main reason this area is prone to piracy is due to the lack of naval defense presence. There are simply too many islands for Indonesia to patrol on a daily basis. Pirates can go off the radar for weeks at a time before coming up and striking 100 nautical miles away from their prior location.

warning in four languages

The Strait of Malacca, mentioned earlier, is in Indonesian waters, but there are various areas around the strait that are home to a unique type of Indonesian pirate. Over 50,000 vessels traverse through Indonesia, carrying 25 percent of the world's barter goods. This trade portal means that pirates have ample opportunity to strike a ship. One interesting thing that has arisen since the increase in pirates is the amount of hidden pirate coves. Pirates have been creating small shanty town in previously uninhabited islands. These allow them to store material and booty before they go out and plunder more commercial and recreational vessels. Although piracy has dropped since 2011, the Indonesian waters remain one of the most dangerous areas in the world for cargo ships.


10)  Nigeria Pirates
To get an idea of how many pirate attacks occur in Nigeria, there have been 22 already in 2013. Somalian pirates rule the east coast of African piracy, but the west coast is dominated by the Nigerians. The reason they have been able to recently flourish is caused in part by the reassignment of the International Naval Task Force by the IMB to patrol the coasts of Somalia rather than Nigeria, leaving it fair game on the western coast.

Nigerian Pirates Gearing Up to Attempt to Seize Another Vessel
Nigerian Pirates Gearing Up to Attempt to Seize Another Vessel

Nigerian pirates are known to be some of the most dangerous in the world. They mostly deal in attacks on oil tankers. Because the Nigerian economic leaders do not want to invest in creating refineries, they ship large amounts of crude oil via ocean routes to be refined. Crude oil is a very valuable substance because it is a vital component in the creation of gasoline and other fuels.

Nigerian Pirates Locked and Loaded
Nigerian Pirates Locked and Loaded

Nigeria creates two million barrels of oil a day, making this nation one of Africa's largest producers. Pirates simply need to commandeer one large oil tanker to reap millions of dollars' worth of oil. While Somalia deals with kidnappings and ransoms, Nigerian pirates stick strictly to stealing oil and refined petroleum products.





9)  Pirates in the Gulf of Aden
Located off the coast of Somalia and Yemen, the Gulf of Aden is crucial for the transportation of goods between Africa and Europe. While the pirates in this area can be directly linked to Somalian Pirates, the pirates in the Gulf can come from a variety of different countries. The BBC states that the main source of income for pirates in this area is kidnappings, ransoms, and ship theft.

Gulf of Aden is Located Right In the Middle of the War-Torn Middle East
Gulf of Aden is Located Right In the Middle of the War-Torn Middle East

This is why many avoid traveling via yacht through the Gulf of Aden. It also happens to be that the Gulf is also connected to the Arabian Sea, allowing various expensive cruise ships to go through the small gulf. Somalia does not have a viable government and is not able to currently stop active pirates. The UN has intervened, though, creating a naval task force designed to combat piracy all over the world.


8)  Red Sea Pirates
Seven attacks have already occurred in the year 2013 in the Red Sea. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, and Yemen are all countries that have a coast connected to the Red Sea. The modern pirates here are of varying ethnicity, and are very similar to the Gulf of Aden and Somalian Pirates. Cruising just isn't what it used to be with all the pirates in these waters. There has been a high risk for private yachts in the Red Sea for the past three years. You are currently sailing at your own risk in this area, and you run the risk of being attacked and pirated for ransom if you decide to sail through the Red Sea.

U.S. Navy Arresting Alleged Pirates in the Red Sea
U.S. Navy Arresting Alleged Pirates in the Red Sea

The pirates of this area are vicious and intelligent, similar to the other pirates in the waters of Aden and Somalia. What is quite strange is that there have been Egyptian military personnel accused of behaving like pirates in the Red Sea. The military would use their advanced weaponry and tactics to pillage smaller ships in the sea. They were eventually caught and punished. Regardless, the pirates that are actually real in this area are equally dangerous.


7)  Bangladeshi Pirates
There is a rising amount of piracy that is threatening the coasts of Bangladesh. The Bay of Bengal is a huge fishing area, and there are over 10,000 vessels that go through the waters on a daily basis.

Female Bangladeshi Pirate Hijacking Ordeal December 6, 2011
Female Bangladeshi Pirate Hijacking Ordeal December 6, 2011

The pirates in this area are known to take no prisoners, and aren't interested in ransom but rather the loot that they can find inside. Fishermen caught 108,000 tons of hilsha, a native fish, in 2012. In 2013, the number has been reduced by 38,948 tons. If the pirates are feeling nice, which is not likely, they will ask for protection money. The Bangladeshi pirates tend to have small fleets and gangs, and they fight constantly with each other.

Bangladeshi Pirates Kidnap Fisherman
Bangladeshi Pirates Kidnap Fisherman

The reason that the pirates in Bangladesh have free reign is that there are currently only 11 vessels owned by the Bangladeshi Coast Guard. The vessels are over 30 years old and not seaworthy in monsoon season. The pirates in this area are going to continue to sail rampant until the government is able to get more ships.


6)  Pirates of the Ivory Coast
The Ivory Coast is a beautiful area located in Western Africa, next to the Gulf of Guinea. Nigerian pirates have been known to roam the Ivory Coast as well, but there are a unique variety of pirates that sail these waters. Some of the bloodiest and deadliest of pirate attacks occurred within the Ivory Coast. Pirates that have been chased away from Nigeria come to the Ivory Coast, waiting for unsuspecting ships to go into international waters.

Pirates of the Guinean
Pirates of the Guinean

Most of the vessels that go through the Ivory Coast carry oil. The crew is kidnapped and released back in Nigeria after the pirates have siphoned out the oil. What makes these pirates deadly is their use of machine guns. Because they sell their loot on the black market, the pirates are often hardened killers and denizens of the black market themselves. The Ivory Coast is one of the newer areas where piracy has begun to spring up.


5)  Peruvian Pirates
Piracy was huge in Peru in the 16th century. Although it has been calm recently, there are modern pirates that tend to spring up and attack in this area from time to time. Because the international waters near Peru are not monitored by any significant force, pirates are able to board ships late at night in surprise attacks. In 2011, pirates raided a Japanese tuna ship off the coast of Peru.

Defending the Spanish Crown When Peru Was a Spanish Colony
Defending the Spanish Crown When Peru Was a Spanish Colony

These corsairs used covert tactics, taking out row boats and approaching the boat late at night. The pirates that attacked the ship are known as "The Pirates of the Sea" in Peruvian. Twenty of them tied the hands and feet of the crew and proceeded to take their money, cell phones, and the ship's communication equipment as well. The IMB has deemed that piracy will definitely increase in Peru in the coming years.


4)  Pirates of the Singapore Straits
Vessels are advised to remain vigilant and to maintain adequate anti-piracy watch and measures when traveling through the Singapore Straits. This area, close to the Malacca Straits, is a place where modern pirates are able to run rampant. With little protection for private ships and cargo ships, the pirates in this area are able to attack vessels while en route to a location or after an anchor has been set. They use methods similar to the pirates in the Strait of Malacca, with heavy machine guns, scare tactics, and other weapons.

Vessels Lined Up in the Singapore Strait
Vessels Lined Up in the Singapore Strait

There were a reported three attacks in 2013 in this area right before Malacca. Recently, piracy has declined in this area, but ships are still occasionally being boarded and having their cargo stolen. An interesting fact about the pirates in this area is that they are actually the reason Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia cooperated to increase security in their waters. After over 50 attacks occurring in the Strait of Malacca and the Singapore Straits, the three countries created a defensive plan to actively enforce the law at sea. It remains successful to this day.


3)  Mexican Pirates
Mexican pirates are modern day criminals with a knack for killing. Over 90 percent of the pirates in Mexican waters are affiliated with the various drug cartels that do business in the water. The pirates in this area are more commonly considered criminals and thugs that primarily deal in trafficking narcotics. The pirates typically roam off the coast of Texas, looking for private boats to shoot at and pillage. Mexico's major drug cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, has a fleet of vessels that can be otherwise referred to as pirate ships.

Mexican Drug Cartel Members in Go-Fast Boats
Mexican Drug Cartel Members in Go-Fast Boats

They are constantly at war with the constitutional militia of Mexico, with machine guns and machetes being used by both sides. The main reason the drug cartel patrols the waters around this area is to protect their ships that carry drugs into the U.S., while also attacking ships that could possibly get in the way. Taking a trip to Mexico via boat is not very good idea if you're interested in preserving your life.


2)  South American Pirates
The coasts of Venezuela are rifled with pirates. The modern pirates in this area use scare tactics and have no major motives or goals other than to pillage other ships for potential loot. The pirates in this area typically use more than one ship during an attack.

Modern Venezuelan Pirate
Modern Venezuelan Pirate

There have been less than ten attacks in this area since 2001, which means that piracy is not huge at the moment. However, your yacht can end up getting boarded by deadly pirates in this area without the necessary precautions.


1)  Sea Shepherd Pirates in Japan
While relatively unknown, these are a new breed of pirates that have been recently surfacing in Japan. The Sea Shepherds were originally an anti-whaling group dedicated to protecting endangered species of whales from Japanese whaling vessels. Although their intentions were righteous, the group's means of protecting whales have become violent. The Sea Shepherd personnel are considered pirates because of their methods.

Dedicated to the Crocodile Hunter - The Steve Irwin - Different Type of Pirate Altogether
Dedicated to the Crocodile Hunter - The Steve Irwin - Different Type of Pirate Altogether

They tend to hurl jars of acid onto ships, ram them with metal rods, and drag reinforced metal chains in the water to damage the rudders of whaling ships. These pirates have cost the Japanese whaling industry millions of dollars in damages. Now that the group has been categorized as pirates, the Japanese government has the right to take legal action against them. Fortunately, the group itself did not intend to be labeled as pirates, and measures are being discussed between them and Japanese whaling companies as how to best fix the controversial situation.


Conclusion
Modern pirates continue to be feared by governments all over the world. Many of the pirates today were originally militia members or soldiers that were not able to find any other job. The pirates in Malacca were believed to have come from a region that had been torn apart by a three decade battle between an Islamic separatist group and the Indonesian military.

As of 2004, the total amount of global piracy has been slowly dropping due to revised counter-piracy plans implemented by the United Nations. Another major reason that piracy has gone down is the cooperation of countries and their governments. Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia originally had military officers that did not trust each other prior to 2004. Only after realizing that the potential threat of piracy could grow to a large scale and effect trade to many more countries did the officers decide to take measures and work together to stop piracy. Unfortunately, as long as the seas and oceans of the world remain vast, there will always be pirates who seek the opportunity to plunder that which is not rightfully theirs. And fighting pirates in the long term will take much more than swashbuckling. If you're planning on taking a journey to any of the aforementioned places, please be aware that the seas are a dangerous place and a modern day pirate ship may be lurking just over the horizon.



 

 

 

 

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