Monday, March 7, 2011


There's been a lot of talk lately about piracy on the high seas. Last year, pirates highjacked 53 ships and held nearly 1,200 hostages for ransom. This is a deadly game that has been going on for a long time in some parts of the world, but the reason the chatter about it has ramped up in the last little while is because of recent attacks on privately owned sailboats with families aboard. Up until recently, it's been rare for pirates to attack these types of boats because they've concentrated primarily on container ships and oil tankers that can bring a high ransom.

Most hostages are not killed, because the pirates are only interested in collecting ransom to release the crews and ships being held. But, last month 4 Americans on a sailboat were murdered by Somali pirates. And within days of that tragedy, a Danish vessel with a family of 5 (3 teenagers) and 2 additional crew was taken by Somali pirates. Why? Private sailboats are not worth much ransom, and most cruising families don't have much money back home to buy their release — so why the sudden interest in highjacking these boats and crews?

My guess is that the game is simply ramping up. The pirates, rich from the millions they've collected (one south Korean tanker company paid over 9 million dollars for the release of one of their ships), and facing almost zero resistance, they're just starting to knock off any boat that's in the area for the fun of it.

The big question is, how do we stop this kind of activity? My answer is to take the fun out of the game. Eliminate the reward and escalate the downside for the pirates. Actively hunt down their mother ships that send out the small, fast attack boats, and sink those mothers — along with everybody onboard.

This is nothing different from gangs taking over neighborhoods on land. And you can either surrender to them and let them run wild and get away with murder, or you can make it so dangerous for them to operate that they go someplace else. Now I have to admit that I am a "take no prisoners" kind of guy, so I'm not prone to catch-and-release. Read into that whatever you want, but my personal belief is that when criminals make that career choice, they also choose the possible consequences. So I'm not going to lose any sleep over being the delivery system of those consequences.

Piracy on the high seas has its counterpart on dry land. Home invasion is the same thing — so is general hostage taking in public places. This kind of thing is becoming more prevalent these days, so my next message will be about how to avoid and/or survive being a hostage in your own home or somewhere else.

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