Pirates are active not only in West Africa, but both in Southeast Asia and practically in the entire Indian Ocean. As well as the Caribbean. However, piracy has now become more local in these regions and Europeans only noticed it when it affected their ships. However, the attacks rarely occur on their ships. The reason for this was simple: the pirates knew that attacking ships belonging to large British or Dutch companies would inevitably lead to serious retaliation by the authorities – which the pirates certainly try to avoid.
Therefore, the bulk of piracy in these regions came down to actions against each other. In other words, local piracy. In Southeast Asia, however, quite a large number of pirate activities were also directing against China – but again, this is not a European power.
Many cases of local piracy are simply not registered.
As a rule, when we say “modern pirates”, most of us think of Somali pirates. However the greatest pirate activity counting in the wrong place. It is necessary, of course, to make a reservation that the statistics on pirate attacks, even today, are extremely imperfect. Even for those registered cases we know that there was a demand for a ransom, for instance. Different sources give different data: about the ransom pay, how many people were in hostage, what was the composition and number the pirate crew that took part in this operation and so on.
Nevertheless many piracy cases are not registered. This is true for Southeast Asia. The fact is that, openly informing the official authorities about all cases of piracy, this will lead to an increase in insurance premiums for the transportation of goods – which, of course, local shipowners don’t really want to. Because they assume that the rise in insurance premiums will hurt them more than pirate activities.
In the states of Southeast Asia, where piracy is most active, the economic incentives for piracy are still much higher than the costs of doing so. Which means it is difficult to root out piracy.
On the whole, these countries are growing quite successfully by world standards. The rate of economic growth over the past 60 years in Indonesia and Malaysia averaged about 5% per year. It is a very good indicator. And Singapore during the same period grew on average by 7-8% per year. Which means that overall, these countries have been extremely successful. But on the other hand, the population in these countries also grew rapidly. Therefore, the growth of GDP per capita in these countries remained lower. The most successful among these countries in terms of GDP per capita is Singapore.
As a matter of fact Indonesia and Malaysia are the largest producers of crude palm oil in the world. They send it on small barges and these barges are on the road for a maximum of two days. However, they are most vulnerable by piracy attacks. In this region there are pirate networks that organize theft of cargo from these barges. This organizers having received funds and having received instructions on who needs to transfer the cargo buyer’s contacts, contacted the accomplices on a specific vessel with the cargo, with the insiders of the carrier company and recruiting a team of people who would seize the vessel. Stating these unofficial shipments of crude palm oil are bought by fictitious companies operating somewhere in the region – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, China. In this scheme, there are usually accomplices on board the hijacked vessel who help to ensure that the hijacking of the vessel takes place peacefully. In other words, without casualties and without any trouble.
Naturally, for the success of this venture, it is very important that naval patrols do not appear in the area where goods are being smuggled from one ship to another. Therefore, for the success of the enterprise the relevant local authorities receive a certain amount of money. This way their patrolling efforts on the right day will be directing somewhere else. Local authorities receive their own income increase so that the pirates can continue to work.
What if pirates are captured?
Pirates do not always succeed in attacks. In this case, the piracy activities provide means to pay judges to pass either an acquittal or the lowest possible sentence. That also contributes to the continuation of the piracy activity. Since, in this region all piracy focused precisely on stealing cargo, incidents of piracy do not attract widespread attention. Therefore, we hear much less about them than about Somali pirates, for example.
Major regions of piracy: the Gulf of Aden, near Somalia and the Southern entrance to the Red Sea; The Gulf Of Guinea, near Nigeria and the Niger River Delta; The Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia; and Off The Indian subcontinent, particularly between India and Sri Lanka.
All Image Credits – The EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia.