Piracy – The East Africa/Somalia Situation

Piracy is a term used to describe acts of armed robbery, hijacking and other malicious acts against ships in international waters. They are carried out with the intent of stealing valuables onboard and/or extorting money from ship owners and/or other third party interests by holding the ship or crew to ransom.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) defines piracy as “the act of boarding any vessel with an intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act”. Since this definition reflects the popular understanding of the word ‘piracy’, this term will be used throughout this booklet to describe any such act against a ship. Armed attacks on merchant vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden, and other waters near the Horn of Africa, have increased in frequency over the past months.

There were 140 approaches and at least 39 vessels actually detained by pirates in 2008 (Source: UKMTO). Such acts have usually been conducted with the use or threat of violence, which can be particularly traumatic for those directly involved, as well as their families.

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