Pirates, Pirates, Everywhere


Yesterday, BBC News reported on the growing threat of piracy, noting a 10% increase in pirate attacks and calling attention to the continuing tensions along The Malacca Straits (a prime shipping channel off Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore that has been most vulnerable).

Yes, piracy is on the rise. But NOT in areas historically considered hotspots — contrary to the BBC News report. The Economist last month presented a more revealing and useful picture. Attacks along the notorious Malacca Straits have actually dropped considerably: from 38 in 2004 to 7 in 2007. Indonesian waters have witnessed a drop from 94 in 2004 to less than half: 43 in 2007. The Americas in general have declined as well, from 45 in 2004 to 21 in 2007. Overall, attacks on sea have decreased from 329 in 2004 to 263 in 2007. That’s a 25% drop.

What HAS grown exponentially in the past three years are attacks in African waters and areas that have been lumped together into a category called “rest of the world”. Somalia, for example, reported 31 attacks in 2007 compared to 2 in 2004. Oil-rich Nigeria reported 42 in 2007 compared to 28 in 2004. “Rest of the world” saw 25 attacks in 2007 vs. 14 three years prior. Stark contrast to what’s happening along the Malacca Straits.

Then there are acts of piracy and policing on the high seas of the internet, of course — but that’s a hugely complicated debate for another day.

The shifting patterns of sea piracy (and corresponding multinational interventions) are important to track accurately and specifically. Globalization and neoliberalism are dramatically rearranging the balances of power and distributions of wealth (and scarcities of wealth) around the world. We cannot keep looking at the same old places. We need to locate these issues in particular geographies and times.

Photo: willposh on flickr

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