23 March 2004

Piracy on the Rise

This week's Regions of Mind blog cites, among many other stimulating posts, a Progressive Policy Institute study on rising rates of piracy.
A quarter of all world pirate attacks last year took place in Indonesian waters. This region is naturally hospitable to pirates and difficult to patrol since (1) it features shallow waters dotted by lots of little islands and narrow channels, and (2) it is the hinge of the shipping lanes bringing Asian consumer goods to Europe, and Persian Gulf oil to Japan and China. Budget stresses since the financial crisis, meanwhile, have cut Indonesia's navy budget by about two-thirds. Last fall, an Indonesian navy spokesman noted that the country needs about 400 boats to patrol national waters, but has only 117 at the moment; and only 40 of these are seaworthy.

In second place was Bangladesh, with 58 pirate attacks; Nigeria was third with 39. Somalia had 18 attacks, but despite the lower number of attacks, Somali waters may be the world's least-policed and most dangerous. The IMO [International Maritime Organization] has a permanent warning to shipmasters to avoid the area altogether if possible, and especially not to anchor within 50 miles of the coast.

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