Sea Transportation: August 6, 2003


In the first six months of 2003, acts of piracy on the high seas increased 37 percent over the same period last year. Deaths from pirate attacks were up as well, with sixteen crewmen killed in the first six months of the year, compared to six during the same period last year. Indonesia is the scene of most of the new pirate activity, with 43 ships boarded, four hijacked and seventeen others able to evade the attackers there. But most shipping companies are doing nothing about this situation, except to warn their ships of the danger. The problem is that, given the number of ships moving through Indonesian waters (over a thousand a day), the incidence of piracy is too low to justify any more energetic, or expensive, measures. Shipping companies are treating the increasing pirate activity as another risk of being at sea. If maritime insurance companies threatened to raise their rates (which they haven't), something would be done. Given the current number of pirate attacks each year (about 400), and the number of large merchant ships in the world (over 20,000), and the fact that most of the attacks are robberies of the crew, or portable ships equipment, the piracy situation will make good headlines, but not much else. The headlines put more pressure on the nations involved to set up anti-piracy patrols, mainly because the pirates also go after local ships (there are over a million fishing ships world wide) and pleasure craft if they can't snag a large ship to rob.


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