Maritime piracy is one of the main issues of international security in the contemporary times. The cost of piracy is estimated to have surpassed the $15 billion per year.
Piracy poses a great threat to global trade. It increases the prices of goods because most of the goods and services are transported to other regions of the world through the ocean. It is important to initiate criminal and legal procedures to help in curbing maritime piracy.
In this paper, it is argued that most of the steps that are being taken to deal with the issue of maritime piracy are preventative in nature. The steps are taken by individual shipping companies.
This paper explores the problem of maritime piracy. Of greater focus in the paper is the exploration of the underlying issues as far as the escalation of sea piracy cases and the control of sea piracy are concerned.
The paper begins with the presentation of an overview of piracy, after which the critical developments and international policy and legal considerations concerning piracy are presented.
Understanding maritime piracy
The problem of maritime piracy is a fairly recent issue in international relations.
However, Andersen, Brockman-Hawe and Goff (2009) observe that the problem of maritime piracy if far much older, thereby making maritime piracy as one of the oldest crimes within the realms of international criminal justice system.
Issues of piracy can be traced back to the 6th century with the cases of the Thracian pirates and later the 13th century with the case of the Japanese Woku.
However, the problem of piracy had disappeared from the history of international security until near the end of the 20th century when such cases re-emerged in many other regions of the world with full force.
Maritime piracy gained prominence in the last decade of the 20th century, with its course taking root in the early years of the 21st century.
According to Struett, Nance and Armstrong (2013), maritime piracy is classified as an issue of international or global security because of the causative factors and its resultant effects on global integration and connectedness through trade.
One of the reasons why sea piracy is classified as an issue of global security is that it often occurs in marine territories that have lapses in security (Andersen, Brockman-Hawe & Goff, 2009)
There have been a lot of cases of sea piracy over the past ten years, especially along the Gulf of Eden. This has put Somalia at the centre of the problem. According to Struett, Nance and Armstrong (2013), the period between 2006 and 2010 saw a double rise in the number of maritime piracy.
At least more than one incidence of sea piracy was reported each year during the mentioned period. In other words, the failure of the Somalia government to establish the state of lawfulness and control makes the country a haven of lawlessness acts, among them maritime piracy.
Andersen, Brockman-Hawe and Goff (2009) observe that more than 40% of the cases of maritime piracy occurred in the Gulf of Eden, which puts Somalia as the main country whose lapses in security creates favourable conditions for the operation of pirates.
However, the fact that only 40% of maritime piracy occur on the Somalia Coast means that other regions in the world are also prone to maritime piracy, making it an international problem and not a regional problem. The figure below elaborates the problem of sea piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Figure 1.0: Maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia
Source: UNDOC (2010).
Cross border transactions have increased in the contemporary world where all forms of cooperation and integration between different regions of the world are happening, meaning that both people and goods move across the boarders through the land and the ocean, or sea.
However, maritime piracy proves to be one of the hitches to the movement of goods across the globe. The marine water is the main transportation mode of goods from one region of the world to the other (Coggins, 2012).
Apart from Somalia, maritime piracy is widely reported in other regions of the world like West Africa, South America, and Asia where cargo ships on transit are seized by cartels of pirates who hold the crews hostage and demand for ransom that runs into millions of dollars (UNDOC, 2010).
Impacts of piracy
As mentioned earlier, maritime piracy is one of the most debatable subjects in international relations. The unprecedented attention on the issue of piracy results from the losses that are associated with piracy.
The losses occur in terms of the lost revenue by international trading companies that pay millions of dollars to the piracy cartels as ransom.
Also, piracy results in the constriction of the international trading environment by posing fears to companies that distribute their goods across the globe through the ocean. The cost of global trade rises tremendously with the rise in cases of piracy.
This forces most of the companies to insure the goods in transit via the sea from piracy. In spite of the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers in international trade, costs of trade are still on the ceiling because of sea piracy.
In this sense, maritime piracy is classified as an international problem requiring the collective effort of all countries in the world to deal with it (Jones, 2013).
Solution to maritime piracy
One of the questions that come into the mind when talking about maritime piracy concerns the approaches that are effective in attaining long-term and sustainable solutions to the problem of piracy.
This leads to the other concern, which is how piracy can be contained based on the fact that the world has never attained the status of total security (UNDOC, 2010).
More often than not, lapses in security occur in different regions of the world and create favourable conditions for the advancement of international insecurity.
In a nutshell, research on the problem of maritime piracy denotes the complexity of dealing with the problem because of the nature of the steps that are effective in bringing about long-term solutions to sea piracy (Andersen, Brockman-Hawe & Goff, 2009).
Lapses in political and economic security, which are common in the world, are critical factors in the development of maritime piracy. This means that ending maritime piracy requires intense and multi-faceted steps.
Such strategies need to focus on political security and stability, as well as economic security. Moreover, such approaches have to begin from states outwards.
Whether states like Somalia can attain political and economic security remains to be a rhetorical issue to most international relations commentators. Also, there is confusion over the steps that should be taken.
Some people support the preventative steps, while others support the reactive steps. However, the main focus here needs to be on the approaches and strategies that can bring about long-term solutions to maritime piracy.
The proactive solutions to the problem, like the use of naval escorts, do not seem to be effective (Jones, 2013).
Andersen, Brockman-Hawe and Goff (2009) observe that one of the critical steps that have been put in place by the private and public entities in dealing with international maritime piracy is the enhancement of the mechanism of catching the pirates.
This is a deterrent approach that involves the enhancement of the defense policies by states. States often dispatch naval ships that patrol the sea, thereby monitoring any illegal acts within different territories.
This strategy is designed to ensure that states take responsibility of safeguarding their territories as outlined in the Law of the Sea, which in turn ensures safety for the ships traversing the marine waters.
However, several misnomers surround the deterrent approach, particularly when it comes to boundaries in the marine waters and the intensity within which the issue of piracy can be tackled by individual states.
This quagmire is more pronounced when it comes to the deep waters where states have no jurisdiction on the happenings taking place there.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides a legal framework on which the strategies of containing sea piracy are based. This legal framework brings out the legal specifications that guide the apprehension and prosecution of the maritime pirates.
Also, there are specifications on how states can enhance cooperation when it comes to dealing with the pirates. Despite the fact that the framework exists, most countries in the world still face a substantial number of challenges when it comes to bringing the pirates to justice.
The challenges include the question of the complete observance of human rights when handling the pirates, the process of transporting and preserving evidence, and the fear by countries to prosecute pirates because of the issue of asylum.
These challenges depict the inadequacy of national laws on the issue of piracy (Andersen, Brockman-Hawe & Goff, 2009).
Obokata (2013) observes that the extraterrestrial application of the concept of human right should be revised because the current conception of human rights from the global perspective makes it difficult for countries to impose direct actions against the pirates.
Struett, Nance and Armstrong (2013) observe that cooperation between states is critical in the full enforcement of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, commonly referred to as the SUA Convention.
Conflicts often arise when it comes to the cooperative agreements appertaining to the prosecution and detention of pirates.
There is a need for an improvement of the institutional and legal frameworks on sea piracy to offer a chance to countries to prosecute people who are convicted of such crimes.
Such changes entail the need to classify piracy as an international crime in which the offenders should be subjected to the common laws of the states that arrest them.
A substantial number of people see states as the main actors when it comes to the development and enforcement of laws on piracy.
This implies the need for states to rethink about the boundaries that are set on the sea, more specifically allowing state security actors to navigate the deep seas and apprehend the pirates (Struett, Nance & Armstrong, 2013).
Most of the countries in the South East Asia are showing positive signs of cooperation in the war against maritime piracy.
Countries in the South East Asia region embrace discussions and the formulation of cooperative agreements in dealing with sea piracy to do away with the rise in the level of suspicion from unilateral actions (Mo, 2002).
Dutton (2012) reiterates the need for nations to embrace regularity in the prosecution of pirates. Political will is vital, where all the states have to show support for each other.
Also, nations should stop politicizing the issue of sea security and embrace collective forces in dealing with lapses in security and political order in a number or regions in the world.
A resounding example is the collective peace initiatives in Somalia by the countries in the Eastern Africa region as a means of attaining a long-term solution to sea piracy (Dutton, 2012).
At the present, there is limited support from all the countries in the world, especially the United States which seem to prioritize the war on terror, forgetting that maritime piracy is another form of terror that is unleashed by organized criminal groups.
The United States treats piracy as a regional or local issue, thus it only responds when it is directly affected (Bento, 2011).
Maritime piracy remains to be one of the most complex issues in international security. The complexity is exacerbated by the lack of cooperation by states, as well as the presence of a legal framework that is closed. This makes it difficult for states to enforce policies on sea piracy.
From the information presented in the paper, it can be concluded that the long-term solutions to maritime piracy lay in the cooperation of states through a comprehensive review of the already established legal framework on sea piracy.
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