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The Piracy Portal


The traditional "Jolly Roger" of piracy

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable goods. Those who conduct acts of piracy are called pirates, while the dedicated ships that pirates use are called pirate ships. The earliest documented instances of piracy were in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. Narrow channels which funnel shipping into predictable routes have long created opportunities for piracy, as well as for privateering and commerce raiding. Historic examples include the waters of Gibraltar, the Strait of Malacca, Madagascar, the Gulf of Aden, and the English Channel, whose geographic structures facilitated pirate attacks. Privateering uses similar methods to piracy, but the captain acts under orders of the state authorizing the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation, making it a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors. A land-based parallel is the ambushing of travelers by bandits and brigands in highways and mountain passes.

While the term can include acts committed in the air, on land (especially across national borders or in connection with taking over and robbing a car or train), or in other major bodies of water or on a shore, in cyberspace, as well as the fictional possibility of space piracy, it generally refers to maritime piracy. It does not normally include crimes committed against people traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator (e.g. one passenger stealing from others on the same vessel). Piracy or pirating is the name of a specific crime under customary international law and also the name of a number of crimes under the municipal law of a number of states. In the early 21st century, seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$16 billion per year in 2004), particularly in the waters between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore.

Currently, pirates armed with automatic weapons, such as assault rifles, and machine guns, grenades and rocket propelled grenades use small motorboats to attack and board ships, a tactic that takes advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels and transport ships. They also use larger vessels, known as "mother ships", to supply the smaller motorboats. The international community is facing many challenges in bringing modern pirates to justice, as these attacks often occur in international waters. Some nations have used their naval forces to protect private ships from pirate attacks and to pursue pirates, and some private vessels use armed security guards, high-pressure water cannons, or sound cannons to repel boarders, and use radar to avoid potential threats. (Full article...)

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An 18th century woodcut of England

Edward England (c. 1685 –1721) was an Irish pirate. The ships he sailed on included the Pearl (which he renamed The Royal James) and later the Fancy, for which England exchanged the Pearl in 1720. His flag was the classic Jolly Roger — almost exactly as the one "Black Sam" Bellamy used — with a human skull above two crossed bones on a black background. Like Bellamy, England was known for his kindness and compassion as a leader, unlike many other pirates of the time.

England was born Edward Seegar in Ireland around 1685. He took part in Henry Jennings' expedition for the sunken 1715 Treasure Fleet off the coast of Florida, and then began sailing with Charles Vane in 1718. Upon Vane and other prominent pirates accepting the King's Pardon, England and some of his men sailed for Africa. Along his way he spawned the career of Bartholomew Roberts, among others. In 1720, near the African island of Comoros, England and his men got into a violent conflict with James Macrae. After 10 days of hiding on an island, England and Macrae agreed to a peace deal, upsetting England's crew; he was subsequently voted out as captain and marooned on the island of Mauritius. After four months, England and the loyal crewman that had been stranded with him managed to build a boat and sail to a pirate safe haven in Madagascar. He died sometime in the winter of 1720–21, possibly from tropical disease. (Full article...)
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Map of areas under threat by Somali pirates (2005–2010).

Piracy in Somalia has been a threat to international shipping since the beginning of the country's civil war in the early 1990s. Since 2005, many international organizations have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy. Piracy impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in global trade in 2011 according to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a veritable industry of profiteers also arose around the piracy. Insurance companies significantly increased their profits from the pirate attacks, as the firms hiked rate premiums in response. Since 2013, piracy attacks have reduced in the region due mostly to patrolling by the navies of countries across the world, especially India, China and EU Navfor Operation Atalanta (a joint operation of numerous European navies). (Full article...)
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Did you know?

  • ... that the developers of Serious Sam's Bogus Detour created a free version of the game to entice pirates to buy the original?
  • ... that the current Indonesian ambassador to Nigeria, Usra Hendra Harahap, personally led a rescue operation to free Indonesian crew members taken hostage by pirates in June 2020?
  • ... that the opera The Devil and Daniel Webster features a jury of ghosts made up of famous historical American figures who are now residents of Hell; including the pirate Blackbeard?
  • ... that U.S. district judge Loretta Preska has presided over criminal cases against a basketball coach, a computer hacker, a Somali pirate, and a Rikers Island guard?
  • ... that indigenous Australian artist Daniel Boyd has depicted colonial figures including Captain James Cook and Governor Arthur Phillip as pirates?
  • ... that the play-by-mail game Beyond the Stellar Empire was part of the "stomping ground" of the genre's top players, allowing them to govern a space colony or join a space pirate band?
  • ... that, while it is unknown if pirates actually kept parrots as pets, it is thought that at least some captains kept cats aboard to keep populations of rats and other vermin down?
  • ... that there is only one account of walking the plank?
  • ... that, unlike traditional Western societies of the time, many pirate clans operated as limited democracies, demanding the right to elect and replace their leaders?

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The following are images from various piracy-related articles on Wikipedia.

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