What is marine piracy

In the maritime and shipping industries, the term piracy is well known and feared, particularly by those who navigate international waters with valuable vessels, cargo and passengers on board. By definition, the term piracy refers to robbery or theft of a vessel and its property. Although, now the scope has broadened to include criminal violence at sea. It is imperative that all precautions are taken and vessels owners who navigate international waters are aware of the risks involved and steps to take in the event of piracy.

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Piracy explained

The act of piracy is, by law, illegal in every flag state throughout the world and individuals engaging in piracy are prosecuted accordingly. The term typically given to individuals and groups involved in piracy activities is pirates. Although piracy is more commonly known as the robbery and criminal activity at the sea, it can also refer to similar acts conducted on land or in the air.

There is a lot of confusion as to what constitutes piracy at sea. The main distinction is that piracy specifically relates to the act of criminality between persons of different vessels. This means that if a criminal act is conducted by a person on their own vessel or between people on the same vessel, this will not amount to an act of piracy.

Any act that is contrary to customary international law will usually be considered as an act of piracy. According to UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) marine piracy is defined as any criminal acts from one ship to another, or persons from one vessel to another.

Such criminal acts include:

  • Violence
  • Detention
  • Rape
  • Depredation

It is essential to engage all necessary safety measures in order to safeguard your vessel, cargo and onboard machinery and crew against piracy. In the unfortunate event that you are faced with a situation of piracy, it is imperative to know how to handle the situation to minimize risk of persons on board and safety of the vessel.

There is no prevention for the act of piracy, and it is difficult to capture those responsible for it. However, there are a number of high-risk areas of the sea that pirates are known to control and so it is highly advised that you plan your route by avoiding these areas. It is also important to inform the appropriate coast guards, other persons, or your route and expected arrival times.