As you can probably tell, the recent account of pirates attacking a cruise ship off the coast of Somalia has captured my imagination. It's not because of some latent fascination with Blackbeard or Captain Hook. It has more to do with my concern that the spread of anarchy--from failed states to the high seas--has become a major source of insecurity in the world. Attacks on cruise ships (as well as cargo ships and fishing boats) are a manifestation of the problem.
At the risk of spending too much time and energy on what some may consider a back-page story, I want to pass along a bit of data on the incidence of piracy in the world. The following information comes from the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre, which collects data on piracy and armed robery aboard ships.
The total number of attacks on shipping dropped from 445 in 2003 to 325 in 2004. The greatest number of pirate attacks occur in the waters off Indonesia (including the Strait of Malacca, the Java Sea, and the Timor Sea); there were 121 attacks there in 2003, 93 in 2004. Rebels from Aceh have been known to hijack ships in the Northern Malacca Straits, but many recent hijackings have been the work of criminal syndicates.
While most acts of piracy are property crimes only, in 2004 there were 30 crew members murdered in attacks on shipping.
For maps showing the locations of reported acts of piracy in 2004, go here.