Suppressing Maritime Piracy: Exploring the Options in International Law

Piracy is one of the oldest international crimes. From the 6th century BCE Thracian pirates of the Mediterranean to the 13th century CE Japanese Woku, pirates have threatened the interests of seafaring nations wherever and whenever the oceans have been used for commercial purposes.

Despite this extensive history, piracy had all but disappeared from the attention of the international community when pirates operating in the Straits of Malacca and off the coast of Somalia began receiving significant press coverage. In 2008, pirates hijacked the Faina, a Belizeflagged vessel transporting 33 T-72 tanks and ammunition to Kenya, and commandeered the Sirius Star supertanker, which was carrying more than $100 million in oil to the United States.

These events were a wakeup call to the international community. Within a very short time period, the United Nations had passed four resolutions on piracy, the EU and NATO had authorized the deployment of multilateral counter-piracy forces, and the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Pakistan, India, Iran, and Russia were contributing their naval resources to international anti-piracy efforts.

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