Want to know why pirates are hijacking and holding people for ransom? Because it works. The truth is that in places around the world where criminality is a profitable business, piracy is a pretty wise investment with nice returns and little risk. The only thing standing between you and the prize are unarmed crewmembers prepared to combat your guns with axes and hoses.
The pirates are acting entirely out of economic interest. They don’t suicide bomb their targets. They don’t say it’s part of a grand jihad, even if al-Qaeda roots them on and does business with them. They don’t make political demands. They want money — and that means victory will come when piracy becomes an unsuccessful business enterprise.
Capitalism, through providing the economic incentives for ship crews to be armed or to hire private security, will ultimately end piracy as a major industry for the black market charlatans. To this day, companies are reluctant to arm their crews because of a fear of lawsuits resulting from an accident and high insurance costs. Each attack will drive the point home that an unarmed ship is a vulnerable ship, whose very presence provides pirates with the motivation to continue and expand their assaults. Facing steep financial losses, companies owning seaborne vessels traveling in these parts of the world will find it more costly not to arm their crews and, hopefully, insurance companies will be wise enough to realize it is in their best interest to lower rates on protected vessels.
Shipping consultant Barry Parker believes that post-9/11 laws permitting ship captains to increase their security measures as they see fit will be amended to allow arms to be distributed on the captain’s command. This is a no-brainer solution and legislators need to get on it right now. Hiring private security personnel is also an option, as evidenced recently when one such firm thwarted an attempted hijacking of a cruise ship by Somali pirates with zero casualties.