Geography Compass

Geographies of Modern Piracy

Sarah Mills

In a recent article on modern piracy in The Guardian, Rose George expresses concerns at the changing dynamics of maritime security and hostage scenarios.  She draws on interviews with Indian seafarers, one of whom describes being “kept for eight months on his ship. When negotiations were ongoing, the worst he suffered was a slap. When negotiations stalled, he was tied in a stress position on a hot deck for several hours, and his captain was locked naked in a freezer.”  George explains how ransoms are getting higher, the negotiations more drawn out.  Indeed, the most high profile case in Britain of modern day piracy in recent years has been the experience of Paul and Rachel Chandler  – who spoke last month about their experience of being held hostage by Somali pirates for 13 months.    Overall, George reflects on David Cameron’s recent decision to allow armed guards on British-flagged ships and the incredibly complicated legal scenarios that both states and maritime security companies face due to shifting national and international legislation.

A recent review in Geography Compass by Elizabeth Nyman on ‘Modern Piracy and International Law’ specifically highlights the complex international problem of modern piracy, especially in terms of global shipping and maritime safety.  The political geographies of modern piracy are significant and Nyman reflects in more detail on the legislation surrounding piracy and the role of borders, territory and jurisdiction.  After a brief history of piracy, Nyman defines piracy in international law, examines the issue of jurisdiction and reflects on some proposed solutions to the piracy problem.  Overall, she states that “by considering questions of maritime piracy, geographers can both contribute to the growing literature on modern piracy, but also gain insights into uniquely geographical inquiries and concerns” (2011: 871).

 Read R. George ‘Piracy is no longer bloodless’ The Guardian 30th October 2011

 Read D. Aitkenhead ‘Paul and Rachel Chandler: How we survived being kidnapped by Somali pirates’ The Guardian 30th October 2011

 Read E. Nyman (2011) ‘Modern Piracy and International Law: Definitional Issues with the Law of the Sea’ Geography Compass 5 (11): 863-874

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