Not since Captain Kidd has piracy been so rife : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Not since Captain Kidd has piracy been so rife Cost pegged at $23B a year

Peter Goodspeed National Post, with files from news services

Masked pirates, armed with military weapons and satellite phones, are bringing a terrifying new sophistication to the ancient art of buccaneering on Asia's high seas.

According to the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB), pirate attacks soared worldwide in the first six months of this year, especially in Southeast Asia's crowded shipping lanes, where pirates threaten nearly half the world's shipping.

With about six ships a week falling prey to pirates worldwide, Southeast Asia's oceans have become a sea bandits' paradise and account for more than half of all the attacks. Asian waters were the scene of 85 of the 165 attacks recorded worldwide between January and the end of June, the bureau said yesterday.

Not since the 17th and 18th centuries, when cutlass-wielding outlaws such as Captain Kidd and Henry Morgan terrorized the Caribbean, has piracy been so rampant on the world's oceans. Pirate attacks in Southeast Asia tripled between 1991 and 1999, then rose by 56% in 2000, said the International Maritime Board, a branch of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce. Officials who track piracy from the bureau's piracy watch centre in Kuala Lumpur, say the level of violence accompanying ship takeovers is also increasing at an alarming rate. Seventy-two seamen were killed in piracy incidents last year, compared with three in 1999.

"Today, acts of maritime piracy range from the classic boarding and hijacking of a merchant vessel on the high seas to the more common act of stealing from the ship while it is anchored," said Dana Dillon, a Southeast Asia policy analyst with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center. "In fact, 72% of all attacks on merchant vessels are committed while the ship is berthed or anchored in port, and most of the attacks on vessels at sea occur in a country's territorial waters."

The targets are usually the contents of the ship's stores and safe, along with the crew's valuables. "Stealing a ship or its primary cargo on the high seas represents only a small portion of the reported crimes," he said. Some estimates peg the cost of pirate attacks and other maritime fraud at $23-billion a year.

"Today's pirates appear to be a heterogeneous group that includes opportunistic fishermen, common criminals, Asian mafia and, in some cases, members of the maritime security forces responsible for safeguarding shipping," Mr. Dillon said. "The fact that most attacks occur while a ship is in port or anchored in adjacent territorial waters raises the likelihood that some of the maritime security forces in this region could be complicit in these crimes."

The surging crime wave on Asia's seas is centred on the Malacca Strait, connecting the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the South China Sea, where up to 600 ships a day -- many of them oil tankers and cargo ships -- must run a gantlet of pirates from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and southern China.

The region has been in economic and political turmoil since the Asian economic crisis in 1997. Indonesia in particular has been engulfed in instability that experts say has left the country, composed of 13,000 islands, poorly equipped to combat sophisticated pirate syndicates that sometimes resemble international business conglomerates.

Some recent piracy cases were planned by South Korean and Chinese gangs, employed Indonesian thugs, used Burmese dockhands and relied on Thai marketeers to dispose of cargoes.

Today's pirates use satellite phones, global positioning systems, forged documents and automatic weapons to stage heists.

Sometimes, after killing or marooning the crew of a hijacked ship, they will repaint and rename the vessel and use it to steal new loads of cargo from unsuspecting businessmen who hire the ship. "They will put the ship on the international market for charter," said Noel Choong, director of the IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre. "Then once it is loaded, they will steal the cargo again." Two years ago, the 93-metre Japanese freighter Tenyu was hijacked by pirates a day after it left port in Indonesia. It was bound for South Korea and loaded with $4.6-million worth of aluminum ingots. The ship turned up three months later in a seedy Chinese port with a new name painted on its stern -- its fourth since it disappeared -- a new Indonesian crew and a new cargo of palm oil. The Tenyu's original 14 crew are presumed dead.

-- Rich Marsh (, August 16, 2001


As the planet gets more and more crowded this type of thing is going to be as common as (fill in the blank). The last thing its going to be is shocking.

-- Guy Daley (, August 18, 2001.

Losing battle with bandits of the sea

By Damien McElroy on the Andaman Sea

AMID the rocky green islands jutting out of the azure sea here, south through the Strait of Malacca and north again up to the South China Sea, an old naval chestnut is being heard anew: Beware, here be pirates.

Half the world’s merchant fleet of cargo ships and oil tankers pass through these waters and for hundreds of vessels a costly, probably deadly, encounter with pirates is as real a threat as a tropical storm.

The thousands of islands strewn across the world’s busiest sea lanes are once again havens for a new generation of pirates who plunder vessels laden with valuable commodities, murdering their crew and demanding ransoms that can run into millions of pounds.

In the awkward quarter-light of dusk, small boats with outboard motors zip through the blind spot at the back of a tanker - such as the Malaysian registered Selayang, which was hijacked a month ago.

Cutting the motor and drifting alongside, a score or more of pirates clamber aboard using grappling hooks and ropes. As the duty crewman turns to confront the noise he is slashed with a machete as the pirates swarm below to secure the crew in their quarters before an alarm can be raised.

Once in control the pirates set sail for empty waters. At anchor the ship is repainted and renamed before being sailed into a port on Java, Sumatra or Borneo where the cargo can be off-loaded to a friendly vessel. If all goes to plan, and the crew is lucky, they will be cast adrift in the lifeboats and rescued.

Equipped with sophisticated technology, well-armed and with the backing of land-based Triads or other criminal gangs, pirates are growing in strength in South-East Asia. Since the region’s economic collapse in 1997 and a crackdown on smuggling by China in 1998, the 2,700-mile Strait of Malacca and its pockmarked coastline has emerged as the pre-eminent blackspot for piracy.

With governments unwilling or unable to police the seas and bring the brigands to heel, the upsurge of pirate attacks on the edge of the Indian and Pacific oceans means that the majority of last year’s record 469 high-seas hijackings took place in this area. The increasing lawlessness of these seas has led to the emergence of a worrying new trend in which the number of victims of piracy jumped to 72 from just three the year before.

Unable to rely on official help, the shipping industry is taking an increasingly militant approach to pirates. At a conference last month, one Malaysian owner, Alan Chan, shocked delegates with a call to take the fight to the pirates.

"To the pirates, sea borders are for them to dart back and forth," he said. "To the coast guards these are invisible nominal lines to halt at. In a sense it is an uneven game. The good guys are tethered to a post."

He added: "It would be futile to fight guerrilla warfare with a set- piece battle line, with the element of surprise sorely missing. The right way is to search and d... well, dispose."

Away from the public eye many ship owners are already taking up the call to arms. The infamous Mr Sandline, Tim Spicer, is one of dozens of security specialists with companies that offer onboard security, including teams of former British Army Gurkhas posted onboard with the crew.

Vigilante security is frowned upon by the International Maritime Bureau, which has become the leading expert on piracy in the region. The IMB is putting its effort into helping coastguards and navies find vessels that have been raided. A new ship tracking system developed for the IMB helped the Indonesian Navy track down the Selayang, 1,000 miles from where it was taken and left bereft of cargo.

But with governments of countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh too racked by political and economic crises to address the problem of piracy, the recovery of the Selayang was a rare success.

Regional powers have now begun entering the fray to try to turn the tide. Both India and Japan are stepping up naval patrols through South-East Asia’s international waters.

Such missions will be largely symbolic, however, since most attacks take place in territorial waters that foreign navies cannot breach. In a recent book on piracy, Vivian Forbes, a former British Merchant Navy seaman, argues that the problem can only be tackled by the resolution of territorial disputes and the establishment of cross border patrols.

As the problem escalates so does the potential for human, economic or environmental disaster, said Forbes. He said: "Given the large number of eastward-bound and fully-laden oil tankers using the straits of Malacca and Singapore every day, there is a very real danger of a piracy attack creating an environmental catastrophe in the region."

-- Martin Thompson (, August 18, 2001.

Maybe we need a category for piracy

Pirates slash sailor's throat off Mexico

Solo boater survives, but his dream of 10-year trip is put on hold THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOS ANGELES - A Canadian man being treated in a Southern California hospital said Sunday that he was attacked by pirates who slashed his throat while sailing in Mexican waters.

Bob Medd, 53, said his neck was slit from ear to ear by two unknown men who boarded his 34-foot sailboat in the Gulf of California during an apparent robbery.

"It was all over so fast - in seconds it seemed," he said in a telephone call from San Clemente Hospital.

Officials at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C., did not immediately return a call seeking comment Sunday.

Medd was expected to be released today from the hospital in southern Orange County, where he was being treated for an infection to the 10- inch wound. He was to fly to the Canadian province of Alberta and enter a Calgary hospital for further treatment.

Medd, who lived on the boat, had set sail from Victoria, British Columbia, about a year ago on what was to have been a 10-year expedition. He had planned to spend the winter in the Gulf of California before continuing south and then sailing across the Pacific Ocean.

Medd said he was sailing solo about four miles off the Baja California coast last Monday when a motorboat with two men aboard came alongside. One man asked for water.

"I went down below to get them some water, and the next thing I know, one of them is there and he's holding a knife and my wallet and asking for more 'dinero,' " Medd said.

The man then attacked Medd, slashing at him with an 8-inch serrated bread knife that was aboard the sailboat.

The other man hit Medd in the forehead with a heavy object, knocking the retired barge operator unconscious.

Medd awoke the next morning as his boat, "TLC," banged against the rocky shore.

"There was blood just everywhere. I thought it was from my nose or my face, because my throat didn't hurt," Medd said.

Although confused and weak, he grabbed a flashlight, mirror, water, flare gun and blanket and stumbled ashore. The boat broke up on the rocks, Medd said.

Medd said he passed in and out of consciousness over the next day, eventually realizing how seriously he had been wounded.

"Every time I walked, my head felt funny. It was like it was loose on my shoulders," Medd said. "I felt around and could feel where they'd slit my throat.

"I knew I wasn't going to to make it. I made my peace with God. I wasn't going to see my family again," Medd said in a choked voice.

But on Tuesday, Medd awoke to the sound of voices. A group of octopus fishermen had found him on the isolated stretch of beach. They handed him over to a Mexican navy ship that Medd signaled with his flare gun.

He was brought to a hospital in Santa Rosalia, Mexico, for treatment.

Officials then contacted Medd's son-in-law, Chris Dusseault, who was on vacation in Las Vegas. Dusseault drove to Los Angeles and then headed south to pick Medd up. The two began driving northward on Thursday, expecting to fly back to Canada the next day. However, they stopped in San Clemente when Dusseault noticed his father-in-law's wound was oozing.

"From what I gather, I would not have made it through the night," Medd said.

Doctors were initially incredulous.

"When they called me from the emergency room, I actually didn't believe the story," surgeon Phillip Wells told The Orange County Register. "What's this about pirates and his throat being slashed?"

Medd said it may take two months for him to heal. He will spend some of that time with his daughter, Christie Dusseault, in Victoria. He has another daughter, Carrie Medd, in Calgary.

Medd said he most regrets losing the chance to continue on his 10- year trip.

"I'm pretty mad, more than anything. This is a lifelong dream to do this, and now it's come crashing down around my ears," Medd said.

"I'm also very scared. I'm 53 years old. Everything in my life was in that boat. I lost all my money. I'll have to start all over."

But "I've got my life, and I've got my family," he continued. "Those are two pretty important things."

And if the opportunity comes up, he added, "I'd like nothing more than to carry on this dream."

-- Martin Thompson (, August 20, 2001.

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