Maritime piracy has been on the rise for years, according to the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center. But until 2008, when pirates operating off the coast of Somalia hijacked a ship full of Russian tanks and an oil supertanker, the crime drew limited international attention. By early 2009, more than a dozen countries had deployed their navies to the Gulf of Aden to counter piracy, and the United Nations passed four resolutions in 2008 on the issue. There are a range of measures available to combat piracy-from onboard defense systems to naval deployments to preemptive strikes. Yet analysts agree the complexities of international maritime law make it difficult to prosecute pirates once they are caught. Some observers are cautiously optimistic about naval cooperation in the Gulf of Aden, but many experts say they anticipate further increases in piracy-not just off East Africa, but worldwide.
Nature and Severity of the Threat
Pirate attacks are largely confined to four major areas:
· The Gulf of Aden, near Somalia and the southern entrance to the Red Sea;
· The Gulf of Guinea, near Nigeria and the Niger River delta;
· The Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia;
· The Indian subcontinent, particularly between India and Sri Lanka.
In 2008, maritime piracy reached its highest level since the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center began tracking piracy incidents in 1992. Global piracy increased 11 percent, with piracy in East Africa up a stunning 200 percent. Of the forty-nine successful hijackings, forty-two occurred off the coast of Somalia, including the capture of an oil supertanker, the Sirius Star. Five hijackings were off the Nigerian coast, though the IMB suggests attacks in that area are underreported. In other areas of the world, including Indonesia, piracy dropped.
The shipping industry has urged...