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Piracy is alive and very dangerous. I have been persuaded to write this article after a friend nearly was – [robbed, hijacked, killed] during a pleasure sail in theCaribbean. Several shots from an old 50 caliber BAR fired at the pirates’ heads, and then at the waterline of their approaching vessel, dissuaded the pirates from approaching any closer. How did they know it was a pirate ship approaching them? There were 6 men with rifles at the edge of the boat posed to jump to the pleasure vessel when and if it came within range. It wasn’t a catering boat.

How big is piracy on the high seas? it’s big — really big — and a real problem. A recent conference was convened in Japan because their commercial shipping has been being hit hard by pirates. Total attacks by pirates are on the rise, 1995 <=> 140, 1996 <=> 175, 1997 <=> 229, and in 1997 over 400 persons were held as hostages and 50 were killed! Most of these reports are on commercial shipping, only. The pleasure craft industry is hit with losses due to theft and piracy to the tune of $100 million per year world wide.

How do modern day pirate operate?

Pirates are in the business of piracy for profit. Large commercial ships with valuable cargo and ships that have been “flagged by countries of convenience” are primary targets. Highly automated, these ship are run with few crew members, and there are no extra bodies to stand watch. Pirates use small high speed boats to select and attack their prey. The pirates approach from the sides and/or the rear and board the ships. The ships crew are often robbed, the ships safe is robbed, and the crew members held hostage while the pirate take what they can. During this period of time, while the pirates are searching the ship and the ships crew is held hostage, no one is steering the ship!

Some shipping companies now keep the ships safe empty. When that occurs the murder rate increases. No money, no live hostages.

The areas that have been hit the hardest have been Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Brazil.

Pleasure craft have been hit hardest in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Caribbean coasts off Nicaragua and Columbia.

What do these places have in common? Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia all border on the South China Sea. The South China Sea is a tremendous cross road for shipping, and is the entrance to the strategic Straits of  Malaga, with Singapore at the eastern entrance. Nicaragua and Columbia are on either side of Panama Canal.

Both locations have a great deal of traffic, and all of these countries are experiencing a tremendous amount of political and economic upheaval. A great deal of information for this article came from http://maritimesecurity.com/, and the Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce.

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