Somali piracy as non-state governance

Source: Somali piracy as non-state governance


mo money, mo pirates

most of the pirate attacks appear to be the work of Nigerian crime syndicates that have been operating in their own oil-rich country for years. the rest of the story is here.




somali pirates convicted in german court

full article here.

  • arguments about being forced into piracy by a leader rejected
  • arguments about being forced into piracy (or not actually committing piracy) because of desperation also not dismissed, although taken into account in sentencing
  • 7 years for adults, 3 years for minors

kenyan courts can start trying somali (and other) pirates caught in international waters

full story here.

follow[ing] a 2010 Kenyan High Court judgement [that] courts could only deal with offenses carried out within the country’s territory… Kenya’s Court of Appeal rules the country’s courts have jurisdiction to try pirates caught in international waters.




pirates and the rolling stones (not keith richards in the movie)

pirates (secuity, employment) around minute 14:00:

also, the enduring power of the rolling stones, at the end of the talk



‘party over’ for somali pirates

first of all, i don’t think i fully understood that the somali pirates were partying. however, “the empty whiskey bottles and overturned, sand-filled skiffs littering this once-bustling shoreline (of Hobyo) are signs that the heydey of Somali piracy might be over. most of the prostitutes are gone and the luxury cars repossessed. pirates while away their hours playing cards or catching lobsters.”

hobya as the modern-day tortuga? read all here.





continued declines in piracy but bolder in West Africa

a more complete review is here.

  • “outside of Somalia, most of the piracy is basically robbing the crew of their valuables and any portable items of worth from the ship (that will fit into the pirates’ small boat).”
  • “some of the pirates on the west coast of Africa (mainly the Gulf of Guinea) have become bolder and are hijacking ships (which they mainly take only long enough to steal the cargo).”
  • “there are still multi-million dollar ransoms to be had for Somali pirates (the only ones on the planet with safe harbors to store their captured ships while the ransom is negotiated).”



used against pirates and tornadoes

the crew of a greek oil tanker resisted hijacking in the gulf of guinea by hiding in the ship’s safe room. evidently, safe rooms are increasingly being used as anti-piracy measures.

unlike in hijackings off the coast of Somalia on the opposite side of the continent, west African gangs have not sought ransoms, instead unloading cargo onto other ships to sell on the black market.

pyrates: this has a familiar ring

a small excerpt from ‘a general history of the robberies and murders of the most notorious pyrates,’ likely by daniel defoe (published under the name of captain charles johnson) (1724). more prescient on the issue of employment than on the bottomless fish supply, of course.

We have given a few Instances in the Course of this History of the Inducements Men have to engage themselves headlong in a Life of so much Peril to themselves, and so destructive to the Navigation of the trading World; to remedy which Evil there seems to be but two Ways, either to find Employment for the great Number of Seamen turn’d adrift at the Conclusion of a War, and thereby prevent their running into such Undertakings, or to guard sufficiently the Coast of Africa, the West-Indies, and other Places whereto Pyrates resort.

I cannot but take notice in this Place, that during this long Peace, I have not so much as heard of a Dutch pyrate: It is not that I take them to be honester than their neighbors; but when we account for it, it will, perhaps, be a Reproach to our selves for our want of Industry: The reasons I take to be, that after a War, when the Dutch Ships are laid up, they have a Fishery, where their Seamen find immediate Business, and as comfortable Bread as they had before. Had ours the same Recourse in their Necessities, I’m certain we should find the same Effect from it; for a Fishery is a Trade that cannot be overstock’d; the Sea is wide enough for us all, we need not quarrel for Elbow-room: Its stores are infinite, and will ever reward the Labourer… if there was a publick Spirit among us, it would be well worth our while to establish a National Fishery, which would be the best Means in the World to prevent Pyracy, employ a Number of the Poor, and ease the Nation of a great Burthen, by lowering the Price of Provision in general, as well as of several other Commodities.

As Custom is a second Nature, it is no Wonder that, when an honest Livlyhood is not easily had, they run into one so like their own; so it may be said, that Privateers in a time of War are a Nursery for Pyrates against a Peace.

other wisdom from the same era (jonathan swift & microcredit): due diligence h/t marginal revolution & marginal revolution


a few pirate tidbits from an exibition i did not attend

but this nice woman did. some highlights of her highlights:

slave ships

  • ‘pirates liked to steal slave ships (en route from Africa), since they were built to carry large numbers and could be remodeled to fit their needs.
  • ‘the ships included craftsmen, including people who could remodel captured ships to fit the pirate crew’s needs and maintain the ships.
  • ‘the Whydah was a slave ship that was captured and converted into one of the most successful pirate ships in history in the early 1700s. after only two months of plundering and conquests, the ship sank during a storm off of Cape Cod, taking Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy and all but two of its crew with it

democracy & niceties

  • ‘pirates tried to avoid battles, hoping their threats would suffice. after all, they didn’t want to get hurt and wanted the ship and loot to be in good shape.
  • ‘when a ship was captured, pirates would sometimes ask the crew about their captain. if he was cruel, they might torture and kill him. if he was good to his men, they sometimes would reward him with treasure — and sometimes gave him a ship.
  • ‘on merchant ships, the captain had his own quarters while the crew slept where they could find room. he also was paid handsomely compared to his crew and was clearly in charge. Pirate ships operated differently. the captain had no more rights than his crew (except during battles and for navigation decisions) and was paid the same. he also slept in the same quarters as his men.pirate ships were run democratically, with everyone getting equal pay and treatment – after you signed an oath.
  • there was racial equality on pirate ships. many of the slaves joined the pirates when their ship was captured. some ships even had all-black crews.


  • ‘to make their long voyages tolerable, pirate ships often had band concerts and one-act plays.
  • ‘pirates would sometimes “take” musicians from ships they captured.