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Modern-day piracy

Modern-day Blackbeards--terrorism on the high seas


Piracy has existed practically since the first boats were built. Even today, in uncontrolled stretches of water around the world, merchant vessels and pleasure craft are attached on a disturbingly frequent basis. Modern pirates range from terrorists like the Palestinians who took over the ocean liner Achille Lauro in 1985 demanding release of prisoners in Israel to common thugs kidnapping cargo ship crew members for ransom.

The International Maritime Bureay (IMB) working jointly with the International Chamber of Commerce's Commercial Crime Services, tracks piracy statistics and publishers weekly, quarterly, and annual reports. The reports allow companies to alert ships' masters to take precautions when entering an area where there has been a recent pirate attack.

According to the second-quarter 2006 IMB report, there were 127 pirate attacks aboard ships in the first half of 2006, about the same as during the same period in 2005. These are violent crimes, with 74 ships boarded by armed pirages, 11 ships hijacked, and 156 crew taken hostage—six of whom were killed and 13 others held for ransom.

During these six months, pirate attacks took place off the coast of every continent, including North America, Bangledash, with 22 recorded attacks on ships, is emerging as the new piracy hotspot, but Somalian and Nigerian waters have also been particuarly dangerous, and ships are advised to keep 75 miles from the coast of northeast Somalia. One bit of good news: The Malacca Straits, through which one-fifth of the world's shipping passes, are no longer included in Lloyd's of London's list of the world's dangerous waterways.

The IMB also provides a Live Piracy Map on the Web. The site uses satellite imagery and the Google Earth service to let you zero in on the precise coordinates of individual pirate attacks around the world. ML

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