Sea Transportation: June 12, 2002


International piracy is rising. Twice as many ships were hijacked in 2001 as in 2000, and the overall number of attacks reach 335 (a recent record). Pirates typically use speedboats to catch freighters and automatic weapons to overpower or murder the crew. Crews are sometimes held for ransom or left on deserted islands. Some corrupt officials of various governments will provide pirates with new documentation for ships, effectively giving them new identities. The traditional problem areas (Somalia and Indonesia) have been joined by many others, including Nigeria, Angola, Guinea, Senegal, Brazil, Tanzania, Columbia, China, Thailand, India, and others. Commercial freighters get by with the smallest crews possible to save money and increase profits. As most of their time is spent miles from shore or any other ship, there is only rarely any kind of "lookout in the crow's nest" watching for approaching trouble. Adding a couple of crewmen to a ship to stand armed watch against pirates is cheap compared to the cost of a stolen ship, but given the vast number of ships at sea, the odds on being one of the 335 attacked are amazingly low. In view of the War on Terrorism, piracy is a growing problem. Analysts are concerned that terrorists could steal a freighter, load it with explosives (or something worse), and sail it into a US harbor. The actual number of commandoes needed to take over a freighter is amazingly small (fewer than ten). Ship owners concerned about this have begun hiding small battery-powered transponders in their ships. These continually broadcast their location, allowing stolen ships to be tracked. These shiploc systems are also hidden in containers with particularly valuable cargo. The US ordered all US-flagged ships to install these by 2008, but after 9/11 ordered this deadline moved up to 2004. The US is pressuring other countries to impose similar rules, but there will always be thousands of ships that do not have them.--Stephen V Cole


Article Archive

Sea Transportation: Current 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close