Sea Transportation: August 13, 2005


The rise in pirate attacks over the last decade has been somewhat misleading. About 80 percent of the attacks can more accurately be classified as burglary or mugging. The average loss for each of these pirate attacks has been about $5,000. Typically, a few thieves scramble aboard a large ship at night, often while the ship is tied up in an anchorage, and steal whatever they can get their hands on, that will fit into a small boat. The loot is lowered into the pirates boat, and the thieves make their getaway. If any of the crew are encountered, the thieves will rob them as well, or run off and go away empty handed. When the crew does detect such a robbery in progress, they will radio the local coast guard. But the thieves are usually long gone before the cops show up. Most modern merchant ships have small crews, typically two or three dozen men and women. These ships rarely carry firearms, and are more concerned about keeping the ship from a navigation accident (running aground, usually on under water rocks), or some onboard accident with the ships machinery (especially in the engine room.) And then there are the probabilities to consider. Even in the areas with the largest number of pirate attacks, the chance of a ship suffering such an incident at about one in 500. Thus piracy is a problem, but more of a nuisance, than a situation that threatens the viability of seagoing commerce.


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