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Sea Transportation: Pirate Heaven, Just Out Of Reach
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September 16, 2009: There's a place, just east of the Straits of Malacca, that pirates dream of. Nearly 500 merchant ships sit at anchor, each tended by only a few sailors, waiting for the global recession to end. The sailors on these ships are more concerned with pirates. Not so much the Somalis, but ambitious Malays and Indonesian fishermen, who have been attacking passing ships for centuries. Heavy naval and air patrols over the past few years have greatly reduced the local pirate attacks (which usually consist of robbing the crew and carrying away anything portable). But all these ships, sitting off the east coast of Malaysia, are a tempting target. The anchorage is well patrolled, but with so many ships, manned by so few sailors, there is much worry.

Because of the global recession, nearly 15 percent of the worlds 90,000 seagoing merchant ships do not have work. There are many "fleets" of unemployed cargo ships at anchor off remote coasts, all over the world. The one near the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is so large because a third of the worlds merchant shipping passes through those straits each year.

The number of idle ships expected to grow, because shipping rates have fallen up to 90 percent in the past year. Many ships are barely breaking even with full cargoes. Another 10,000 new ships are on order. While some of these can be delayed, if the shipping recession lasts another year, thousands of older ships are going to be broken up for scrap.

The fall in shipping process is a boon to anyone who has to move a lot of stuff long distances. The U.S. Department of Defense will save over a $100 million in shipping charges before the shipping recession ends.


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Sty0pa    What?   9/18/2009 11:52:21 AM
Why would an anchorage full of empty cargo ships be at all inviting to pirates?  It's not like pirates are taking the ships to build some sort of secret navy on the cheap.
They are seizing ships for ransom, which is motivated by a) cargo, b) sailors (and no matter what the carriers tell you publicly, it's in that order).
In most cases, without commandeering a significant portion of the crew, the pirates can rarely even OPERATE the vessels.

So no, the reason these vessels are left alone is precisely why they are barely staffed and only guarded as much as the insurers require - they're nearly valueless except to those with the resources to run them. 
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WarNerd       9/19/2009 7:47:19 AM
Different area, different problem.
The Somali's are gangsters who seize ships for ransom, but they have only a limited ability to pilfer cargo because they do not have access to docks or lighters (which could be targeted by the naval forces in the area) and mostly just leave the cargo alone.  They would be interested in these ships, but the ships are just to far away and probably lack the fuel on board to get them to Somalia if they could.
A few of the Asian pirates from Indonesian and Malaysia are organized a several large syndicates which will steal the entire ship, murder the crew, and then quickly sell both the cargo and the ship through a network of brokers before an effective search can  be mounted.  They do not usually take hostages for ransom because they lack a safe area to keep them and, unlike Somalia, Indonesian and Malaysian have strong governments and navies to keep it that way.  however, there are literally thousands of docks and river mouths in which to hide and unload.  The syndicates would be uninterested in the anchored ships because there is just no market for them at this time. 
The there is the vast majority of the pirates in almost any part of the ocean who are just maritime muggers that board a ship and rob the crew of valuables and provisions, these are the ones that the crews on these ships are worried about.  It's sort of like living on welfare in an apartment in a bad part of a city.
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