Combating Blackbeard: How to Reduce Maritime Piracy in Somalia

Royal Marines on Counter Piracy Operations Near Somalia
Royal Marines on Counter Piracy Operations Near Somalia. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/flickr.

The piracy problem

According to data gathered by the International Maritime Bureau, (attempted) piracy was reported in 77 countries in the period 1998­–2009. However, the intensity of the piracy problem varies significantly and the number of pirate hotspots is limited. Countries considered notable piracy hotspots include Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and, most importantly, Somalia.

Since 2005, around 200 ships have been hijacked and held for ransom by Somali pirates. If we consider that each of these ships has a crew of 20, this means that up to 4000 sailors have been taken hostage. Pirates have therefore had a great impact on the level of security in the Horn of Africa and there is some evidence that they have affected both the cost and quantity of shipping through the region.