In the minds of most summer moviegoers, piracy is little more than historical legend and fantasy. Just this last week, however, the world authority on maritime trade, the London-based International Maritime Bureau, released a report declaring that violent pirate attacks have hit an all-time high. According to the Straits Times
, between January and June, there were 234 incidents of piracy, a 37 percent increase.
One-quarter of all of the attacks occurred in the waters of Indonesia: pirates boarded 43 ships there and hijacked four vessels.
In "Anarchy at Sea," (The Atlantic
, September 2003), William Langewiesche portrays the oceans as increasingly beyond governmental control and organized gangs of criminals and terrorists becoming ever more bold on the high seas. Langewiesche writes: "The most ambitious pirates hijack entire ships: they kill or maroon the crews, sell the cargoes, and turn the hijacked vessels into 'phantoms,' which pose as legitimate ships, pick up new cargoes, and disappear."
A critical chokepoint of world trade is the Strait of Malacca, through which Japan brings 80% of its oil. Singapore's Business Times
reports that attacks increased in this narrow 550 mile waterway to 15 attacks in the first six months of 2003, compared to 9 in the same period last year.
Security in these waters is critical to the war on terror. Late last year, video footages from al-Qaeda strongholds in in Afghanistan
showed the terrorist network had been spying on Malaysian marine police in the Malacca Straits. An attack on a supertanker in the Straits, similar to that carried out against the French Limburg
off the coast of Yemen last October, could seriously disrupt world trade.
Shiver me timbers, indeed!
Labels: Atlantic Monthly, Indonesia, Malacca Straits, piracy, Strait of Malacca