Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pirates (No, Really)

With Pirates of the Caribbean returning to the big screen today, it might be a good time to see what's happening in the world of modern-day maritime piracy. (There was a time when the modifier "maritime" would have been considered redundant, but video, audio, and software piracy have become so common that many people now think of those crimes first--or at least they did before Johnny Depp came along and put a face on the old-fashioned form.)

Fortunately for those of us interested in such things, statistics compiled by the International Maritime Organization give us a pretty good look at what modern-day Jack Sparrows are doing on the high seas. Last month, the IMO published its annual Reports on Acts of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships (available here as a .pdf file). Here are a few bits of data gleaned from the Reports:

  • There were 241 "acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships" reported to the IMO in 2006, 25 fewer than in 2005.
  • The South China Sea, where there were 66 "incidents," was the most dangerous part of the world (although the Malacca Strait, with 22 "incidents," probably had the most attacks per square mile.
  • Ten ships were hijacked. Four of the ten hijackings occurred in the waters off East Africa.
  • Thirteen crew members died at the hands of pirates; another 112 were injured.
  • There were 180 crew members kidnapped or taken hostage, of which 37 remain unaccounted for.
  • The peak month for piracy was April. Like Congress, pirates seem to go into recess in August.