Have you always thought that being a pirate sounded pretty cool? Well, there are some things you need to know before you decide to quit your job and steal a boat. For starters, you’ll be called all kinds of names, such as a sea robber, rogue, corsair, buccaneer, sea dog, scalawag, picaroon, sea villain, swashbuckler, and sea marauder.
Names are for tombstones, you say. Funny you should say that. Most pirates don’t save for retirement because they won’t live that long. If they don’t die in battle or as a result of battle wounds (infection), they’ll likely be hanged. Back in the day, pirates were hanged publicly in cages called ‘gibbets’ to deter piracy.
But what a way to go, you say? Living the high life, taking whatever you desire, working when you like and playing hard the rest of the day. Well, it wasn’t all rum and doubloons. Life at sea could be deadly dull. Sometimes, weeks went by in between assaults and the weather could be brutally hot or storms could be perilous. Ship repairs and battle injuries (like sawing off an arm or leg that couldn’t be saved) were tended to during these lulls. Food and ale could become scarce if at sea long enough. There wasn’t enough room below deck for everyone to sleep so the crew had to take turns in hammocks. We’re talking yucky bilge water, rodents, dampness, darkness, and perpetual creaking and rolling. But the upside was that if you got really hungry, the rats were a source of protein— if you could catch them!
It couldn’t be all bad, right? Too true. After a good run, pirates took their loot and headed for the nearest tavern to eat, drink, and be merry (and maybe even find a Mary). They liked to gamble and often lost most of their earnings playing cards. Other times they had to find a safe place to ‘beach’ (careen) their boat to make repairs, including scraping barnacles off the bottom of the vessel or sewing up a large hole in the sail made by a pesky cannon ball.
What did pirates consider to be good booty? Why, anything they could eat or sell or use, silly! This included fine fabrics from merchant ships carrying delicate hand-woven linen and silks from the Far East, snuff, tobacco, pipes, weapons, ammunition, food (especially sugar and coffee and exotic spices), rum, wine, ale, goblets, medicine, pieces-of-eight, doubloons, gold bars, silver, jewelry (including ornate crucifixes!), gems, precious metals, candlesticks, silverware, or anything of value like an antique jewelry box or snuff box. Often, the ship was seized and its crew forced to become pirates. If the ship was of no use or too recognizable, it was raided (sails, guns, ropes, etc.) and then sunk to get rid of any evidence of piracy.
Now you’re talking! Gold and rum, matey! Hope you don’t sunburn easily because pirates loved tropical places and SPF 30 sunscreen could not be found aboard a pirate ship! Popular pirate hangouts included Madagascar, the Caribbean, Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola. If coconuts and mosquitoes aren’t your thing, don’t worry. Pirates do a lot of traveling, part of the job. They went wherever there was loot. From the African coast to the New World, pirates sailed the seas. They commonly stuck to trade routes because that’s where the merchant ships could be found. Some pirates sailed from North America to Africa and as far as the Red Sea (roughly 24,000 miles!). This was commonly known as the Pirate Round.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, there were many places that pirates liked to go when they wanted a vacation or a hideout. Pirates gathered on Port Royal and Nassau (New Providence, Bahamas). The Bahamas was considered “pirate central” for a long time before Woodes Rogers was sent to eradicate piracy. At the height of piracy, there were close to fifty tavern keepers, 2,000 buildings, and 6,500 residents in Port Royal. It was a fun, thriving place until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692.
On the other side of the world was a tropical island known as Sainte-Marie, near Madagascar (another pirate haven). Although the island was only two miles wide by twenty-six miles long, it was considered a paradise for pirates. First and foremost, it was near a main sailing route for merchant ships returning from the East Indies. Also, food was abundant, including exotic fruits, chickens, pigs, zebu, and turtles. This was good news for pirates who had been at sea living on rations of stew and hardtack. Even better, booze was abundant. The islanders concocted a potent cocktail called toke that was made from fermented honey, sugar, and fruit juice. Pirates loved the sweet drink and the pretty Malagasy women that were of African, Arab, European, and Indonesian descent who served them. But perhaps what made Sainte-Marie, called St. Mary’s Island by the English, most appealing was the security. Pirates were in a safe haven here, thanks to the coral reef that surrounded much of the island (see image. The reef kept pirates safe from surprise attacks. Furthermore, a fort had been built by pirates and was always well-manned and well-equipped. There is evidence that there were as many as forty or fifty guns in its arsenal.
One clever pirate named Baldridge built a settlement on the southern end of the island. It came to be known as Pirate Village. The island became a trading post for Indian Ocean pirates. Eventually, Baldridge was killed by the natives for selling many of the islanders into slavery. He was replaced as the “White Chief” by Edward Welch. Welch had to start over given that the natives burned all the structures to the ground after killing Baldridge. Welch built a bigger and better fortress. Next, he constructed a warehouse (to store all the goods being traded), a large tavern, and homes for the pirate families. Ships returned to the island to buy and sell goods, which included fine European clothing and sewing accessories, rum, weapons, pipes, salt, ale, and much more. Among the many pirates who frequented the island over the years were Robert Culliford, Thomas Tew, Henry Avery, and Captain William Kidd. Kidd hid out here for quite a while before finally heading home to face the many charges the Crown had waged against him, including counts of treason and piracy.
Today, the island is a popular place for diving due to the coral reef and numerous pirate shipwrecks. When it was no longer seaworthy, Captain Kidd was forced to sink his flagship, Adventure Galley, before leaving the island in a stolen ship.
PIRATE CEMETERY ON SAINTE-MARIE ISLAND
Those of the female persuasion might be wondering if there were women pirates? You bet! Two of the best pirates of all time were women: Anne Bonny and Mary Read (discussed in detail in PIRATES OF THE CAROLINAS). Probably the toughest female pirate ever was Madame Cheng. When her husband, Cheng I, died in 1807, she took over his piracy business. She took his small operation and turned it into one of the largest and roughest fleets in the history of piracy with over 1800 boats of various sizes and a reported 70,000 pirates under her command! Madame Cheng became known as The Dragon Lady. She took over her husband’s small fleet upon his death. She turned it into an emire, controlling the South China Sea with roughly 1,800 ships and 80,000 pirates! She bought a pardon from the Chinese government and retired a few years later. Other notable female pirates:
Alwilda, a Swedish princess, reportedly became a pirate to avoid an arranged marriage to a Danish prince. She is believed to be one of the first female pirates and she sailed with an all female crew.
Charlotte De Berry dressed as a man so that she could be with her husband, who was a sailor. He was accused of mutiny by an officer who reportedly found out Charlotte was a woman and wanted her for himself. Charlotte’s husband was found guilty and flogged to death. When Charlotte and the rest of the crew were later captured by pirates, she led the mutiny and successfully took over the ship. Under her command, the crew became pirates and sailed the waters around Africa plundering many ships laden with treasure. Many believe this is a fictional story and there was no Charlotte De Berry.
Grace O’Malley attacked ships off the coast of Ireland and amassed a fortune through prudent ventures and piracy. She considered herself the Queen of Ireland so she refused to bow when introduced to Queen Elizabeth I. She arranged the meeting to get help with her sons who were in trouble. It is said that Queen Elizabeth I was quite impressed with O’Malley’s accomplishments and her knowledge of Latin, that she did help her.
Who were the baddest buccaneers?
Blackbeard (Edward Teach) is one of the most famous sea robbers from the Golden Age of Piracy. He worked hard to cultivate his image and his efforts paid off. He seldom had to go into battle to get a prize. Once the merchant ship saw the colors of his ship and realized who they were up against, they usually surrendered without a fight. His many exploits include defeating the Royal Navy and holding the town of Charleston, SC hostage until the governor met his demands.
Henry “Long Ben” Avery was one of the baddest buccaneers. He earned that reputation and the nickname “Arch Pirate” after capturing the Great Mogul’s ship, Gang-i-Sawai. After plundering its riches, the pirates brutally murdered the men and raped and tortured the women before throwing them into the sea when they grew tired of them.
Madame Cheng took over her husband’s pirate fleet upon his death. Turns out she was a great pirate. She expanded his enterprise into a huge, highly profitable entity. She became notorious for her savage treatment of prisoners and those who tried to betray or deceive her.
Eustace “Black Monk” was a monk who obviously had a falling out with the church. He took up piracy and plundered ships in the English Channel. According to legend, he made a pact with the devil that kept him safe through many battles.
Captain William Kidd is probably the most controversial pirate in the history of piracy. Some dispute that he was a pirate given that the Crown gave him a privateering commission. They believe that he lost control of his crew, who committed the acts of piracy. Others say there is no doubt that Kidd became a pirate during his legendary three-year voyage around the world. Many believe that treasure obtained during this time is still waiting to be found. Allegedly, Kidd hid booty in three or four locations while en route home so that he could use it as leverage in his negotiations with the Crown. He knew that he was going to have to answer to charges of piracy upon his return but counted on the treasure to sway the authorities. (See below for more on Captain Kidd: Pirate or Privateer?)
Jean David Nau was known as one of the cruelest pirates of all time. He brutally attacked and killed many men even when it wasn’t necessary. Ironically, he was captured and bludgeoned by Indians before being burned to death.
Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts had one of the most successful careers. The Welsh pirate captured more than 400 ships in the Caribbean and Africa. His biggest prize was Sagrada Familia, a Portuguese ship loaded down with diamonds, gold coins, and valuable goods.
Anne Bonny was the most famous female pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy. She ran off with a sailor and then took up piracy after meeting pirate Captain Jack Rackham. She was tough and brave and could outfight most men, including Rackham.
Captain Kidd: Pirate or Privateer?
Captain William Kidd is among the most notorious and controversial pirates in history. His demise came about after he was given a commission as a privateer by the Crown. He was born in aseaport town called Dundee, Scotland in 1654. Later, he settled in New York and became a pillar of society. He even had a pew named after him at Trinity Cathedral. Kidd was a self-made man who married a wealthy woman named Sarah Bradley Cox Oort, which contributed greatly to his prominence and prosperity. So why did the forty-one-year-old family man return to the sea? Many believe he had grown bored and was looking for some excitement (sounds like he was suffering from a mid-life crisis). He found that and much more when he set sail in 1696 with his commission to capture French ships and pirates. His partners, which includes Lord Bellomont (Richard Coote), King William III, and other famous men, provided the ship. The 287-ton Adventure Galley was fitted with sails and oars and thirty-four cannons. She was sturdy but fast and maneuverable.
Captain Kidd was pleased as he set sail. He had a good crew and a good ship and the king’s best wishes. However, things soon got off to a bad start. He lost many of his best men when they were “commandeered” by the navy and more were lost to illness. He was forced to accept pirates and inexperienced sailors to replace them. The crew was hired with the understanding that “no prey, no pay.” This meant that they didn’t get paid unless they met with success. Their success, however, depended upon their captain. And luck wasn’t with Captain Kidd. No matter where he sailed, he had trouble finding French ships to plunder. His men were getting restless. There was talk of mutiny.
The ship began leaking and was not in good shape. By this time, Kidd and his men had been at sea for more than a year with little to show for it. They needed supplies and Kidd needed to regroup. They careened at the Maldive Islands to repair the hull and lay in supplies. Captain Kidd kept coming across ships that were not French, although some raised French colors. But when Kidd boarded them, he discovered they were not French. After repeatedly letting these East India and English ships go, his crew got fed up. They threatened mutiny if Captain Kidd let the latest ship go, as it looked like he intended. According to Kidd, he had no choice but to take the ship in order to keep control of his ship.
The Crown may have overlooked these incidents if not for two events. One was when Kidd seized the Quedagh Merchant, an Armenian-owned ships loaded with fine muslin cloth and silk, opium, salt, calico cotton, and much more. A few weeks later, he begged his crew to let him return the Quedagh Merchant (according to Kidd). He was afraid this act wouldn’t be forgiven. And he was right.
The Adventure Galley was no longer seaworthy, so Kidd went to Sainte-Marie Island, which was a favorite hang out for pirates. This is where nearly 100 men deserted their captain. He was left with only a dozen or so men. He had no choice but to sink the cumbersome Adventure Galley and to continue his journey in the Quedagh Merchant. It was time to go home.
Kidd felt confident he could straighten everything out once he got home. After all, he was partners with the most powerful men in America and England and he had all the paperwork to prove it. What he didn’t know was alot had changed while he had been gone. The Great Mogul had demanded that England do something about piracy or they were going to cut off trade. Pirate Captain Henry Avery’s violent assault on the Ganj-i-Sawai was the final straw. England had to distance itself from piracy to protect its relationship with the Great Mogul. This meant that Captain Kidd was in real trouble.
Furthermore, there was a second incident that cinched it for Kidd. He got into a dispute with a crew member, William Moore. He became so enraged at the gunner’s insubordination that he threw a bucket at him. His luck had been so bad throughout his trip that it shouldn’t have surprised him that the bucket caused a head injury that eventually killed Moore. This was witnessed by most of his crew and was considered to be murder.
Knowing he was in trouble, Kidd dumped the Quedagh Merchant and bought a sloop, the San Antonio. Reportedly, along the way Kidd hid some of his treasure. He planned to use it as leverage to help bail him out of trouble. He figured that his greedy partners would overlook alot if the price was right. Kidd went to his trusted friend, Lord Bellomont, who promised to help him. Instead, he betrayed Kidd. When Kidd arrived for their meeting, Bellomont had him arrested. He was held in Boston’s Stone Prison. Later, he was transferred to England’s Newgate Prison. He sat in this rotten place for more than a year awaiting trial. During this time, he was not allowed any visitors or proper preparation for trial.
The Crown didn’t want him to win his court case. Kidd needed to be sentenced for piracy and used as an example (and to placate the Great Mogul). During his three years at sea, everyone’s attitude regarding piracy had changed. It was no longer acceptable and must be punished. Kidd was a scab on the Monarchy and all the men he kept claiming were his partners. His request for more time to obtain his commission papers, which had been taken by Lord Bellomont, was denied. He argued that he had not been access to his defense council until trial and that he needed more time to prepare. All his requests were denied. He was quickly found guilty of all charges, including murder and piracy. He was hanged on May 23, 1701.
Some thousands they will flock when we die, when we die,
Some thousands they will flock when we die,
Some thousands they will flock to Execution Dock,
Where we must stand the shock and we must die.
So did Captain Kidd become a pirate or was he a victim of circumstances? There lies the controversy. Some experts believe that Kidd went willingly from privateer to pirate while others swear he had no choice. Some ask a very good question, “If Kidd had lost control of his crew, he surely wouldn’t have made it home intact and with so much loot?” That begs another question, “Has all the treasure that Captain Kidd hid on his way home been found?” Many believe some of it remains hidden to this day.
It’s important to remember that pirates had to be resourceful and use whatever weapons necessary to gain the prize. Of course there were the classics: cutlasses, swords, pistols, muskets, and big guns or cannons. There were also axes to help board big ships and to tear down sails. Tacks were sometimes used. They were scattered across the deck so that when enemies boarded (often barefoot in the Caribbean and other warm climates) they would step on these sharp tacks. Ouch! Homemade grenades were often tossed onto the decks of enemy ships before boarding.
Pirate flags were used to identify a particular captain. The flags had designs, such as a skull and crossbones or a cutlass or hourglass or a skeleton or devil. These symbols represent power and death. These flags, also called Jolly Rogers, were sometimes hidden until a pirate ship got close to the merchant ship it planned to attack and then it ran up its ‘colors’ to let the other captain and crew know that they were in big trouble! Sometimes the sight of a pirate flag was enough to elicit a surrender. According to my research, it is unlikely that Blackbeard had to fight much once his reputation was well known. What would your design be?
What size ship you ended up on depended on where you sailed. Large, heavily-armed galleons were perfect on the high seas but a sloop was much better in shallow waters. Did you know that an anchor can weigh well over 3,000 pounds?
But in order to be a pirate you must be able to talk like a pirate. Here’s a list of helpful terms:
Account (as in “to go on account”): to take up piracy
Act of Pardon: a reformed pirate receives a certificate of pardon that forgives all previous acts of piracy
buccaneer: another term for pirate
doubloon: favorite pirate booty was this Spanish gold coin
execution dock: place where pirates were hanged in England (on the River Thames near the Tower of London)
flotilla: small fleet
flagship: main ship of pirate flotilla
freebooter: another term for pirate
gibbet: a cage that was custom built to accommodate the bodies of executed pirates that was hung in public as a reminder of what happened to those who took up piracy
grapple or grapnel: a hooked tool thrown with a rope that was used for boarding enemy vessel
grenade: popular pirate weapon was the homemade bomb made by filling a bottle with gunpowder and anything else that could make it a weapon, such as old iron or small shot
Letters of Marque (letters of reprisal): commission given to a non-military sea captain to plunder in the name of the Crown (allowed to capture enemy ships and split the money with the Crown)
jolly roger: pirate flag
maroon: to leave a person on an abandoned island, such as a pirate captain after mutiny or captured prisoners
marooner: another term for pirate
piece of eight: spanish coin
privateer: name given to non-military sea captain who is plundering under the authority of the Crown (letters of marque)
walk the plank: when pirates had prisoners walk the plank into the ocean to get rid of them (in truth, this was seldom done)
Still sold on being a pirate? Okay, what crew member would you be? Let me guess—the captain! It may interest you to know that he is an elected position so your crew would have to agree to it. Also, you could be overthrown at any time by a mutinous crew who has been short on ale or pieces-of-eight for too long. You also should know that you only have authority during battle. You may want to consider being quartermaster (the only other elected position but highly influential) or a first mate. Or perhaps a gunner, sailing master, sail maker, carpenter, musician, boatswain, or supporting crew. Only the captain and quartermaster were elected positions.
But as the captain, you would get to decide the Code of Conduct on your ship. Yes, even nefarious pirates had rules to live by and they varied according to the captain. For example, most forbid fighting on board. A few banned drinking (okay, not many). No man shall desert during battle was a standard rule. If injured in battle, certain compensation was guaranteed, depending on whether a leg (perhaps 500 silver pieces) or eye (say maybe 100 pieces of silver) was lost.
Still want to be a pirate? Okay, then. You must get at least 8 correct answers on this quiz to show you’re up for the challenge:
- Did pirates really make victims walk the plank? Yes or no?
- Piracy ended in the late 18th century. True or false?
- Piracy began during the Golden Age of Piracy. True or false?
- Fiji was a favorite spot for pirates. True or false?
- Did pirates really have wooden legs and hooks for hands? Yes or no?
- Did pirates really walk around with parrots on their shoulders? Yes or no?
- Pirate crews adhered to a code of conduct create by the captain. True or false?
- Name five things pirates considered good booty (treasure)?
- Who was in charge of dividing the treasure among the crew?
- Where did Blackbeard die and how?
*Answers can be found by clicking on ALL ABOUT PIRATES AND PIRACY and in Pirates of the Carolinas.
MORE PIRATE STUFF…
A Brief History of Piracy
How long has piracy been prevalent? As long as civilization has existed. The earliest records show pirates in ancient Greece. Since the Aegean Sea was the epicenter of Greece, it soon became infested with pirates. The Greeks were the first to define these sea robbers as pirates or pe´irates. Piracy was such a problem that the ruler of Greece, Alexander the Great, made it his mission to end piracy.
Legend has it that when he asked one captured pirate his reason for being a sea robber, the pirate said “The same reason as you have for troubling the whole world. But since I do it in a small ship, I am called a pirate. Because you do it with a great fleet, you are called an emperor.”
Roman leader, Julius Caesar, was kidnapped by pirates. He was on his way to Rhodes when pirates took his ship and held him captive on a remote island for nearly six weeks before his ransom was paid.
These scalawags were troublesome in northern Europe, as well. Viking pirates sailed the North Sea from the 8th century to the mid-12th century. They were considered to be brutal and merciless.
Piracy was a problem everywhere, but for different reasons. Some men turned to piracy out of desperation, unable to earn a living any other way. Some men became pirates to escape slavery or criminal prosecution or religious persecution.
On the North African coast, pirates were called Barbary corsairs. Unlike most other pirates, they weren’t searching for riches. They sought Christian sailors for slavery. Barbary corsairs, unlike other pirates, didn’t sail for more than a few weeks at a time. This is because the ships were loaded down with slaves and food and water, which only lasted the many men aboard a few weeks. The Christian slaves endured terrible conditions, including hunger, beatings, and crowded conditions.
There were privateers too, who were nothing more than commissioned pirates. Monarchies allowed “legalized” piracy to help finance wars, such as the War of Spanish Succession (also known as Queen Anne’s War), King George’s War, Quasi War, and Nine Years War. This meant that privateers were allowed to attack and plunder enemy ships, but they often attacked non-enemy vessels too if they thought there was good booty aboard.
Soon after the New World was discovered, piracy came to America. Spanish pirates, called conquistadors plundered the Spanish Main. This consisted of Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. After Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, privateers and pirates waited along the coast of North America for Spanish ships full of treasure on their way home to Spain. As the New World grew and trade expanded, so did piracy.
The heyday of piracy was the Golden Age of Piracy, which many define as lasting from the mid-1600s until circa 1730. It began when most of Europe were involved in the “Wars of Religion” and is considered to be 1650 – 1680. Some have dubbed this “the buccaneering era.” Next came “the pirate round,” lasting from the last 1600s until about 1700. India was faring far better economically than Europe during this time (look no farther than the Great Mogul and East India Company for proof of this), so pirates hit the Indian Ocean to plunder ships loaded with fine fabrics, coffee, tea, gold, gems, and much more. The early 1700s was the last era of the Golden Age of Piracy. After all the “Wars of Religion” had ended, thousands of seamen (privateers) were suddenly out of work. It wasn’t a stretch for these men to turn to piracy since they had been doing it all along with the Crown’s blessing. As trade increased between Europe, Africa, and North America, especially in the Caribbean, so did piracy. Sugar, tobacco, coffee, cocoa, rum, and slaves brought good money.
Aren’t pirates a thing of the past? No way! Piracy is an epidemic with no end in sight. During the last few years, piracy has more than doubled. Today, the sea robbers aren’t as dashing and dapper as Calico Jack Rackham and Blackbeard. They are warlords and terrorists. They have sophisticated GPS equipment, weapons, and sleek, fast boats.
The most dangerous waters are off the coast of Somalia. Also, the Strait of Malacca, Arabian Peninsula, India, Bangladesh, West Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, and Columbia are heavily infested with modern day pirates. One of the problems is that legitimate military are moonlighting as pirates. Also, these pirates are well-funded and organized since they are part of major crime syndicates. A new trend is pirates attacking private vessels, such as yachts and cruise ships. They use the hostages to get huge ransoms.
Additionally, piracy is often not reported because it is bad for business. Customers might take their business elsewhere if they feel their cargo is not safe. Insurance premiums will likely increase, just like car and home insurance, when claims are filed. Some experts estimate that only a tiny fraction of piracy is reported. Only one percent or so of pirates are caught and prosecuted! Lastly, since these are international waters, it is hard to determine jurisdiction and it usually turns political. Enough said.
During the Golden Age of Piracy, which was the heyday of colorful characters like Stede Bonnet, Mary Read, and Blackbeard, piracy was a way to survive. These folks had few options for earning a living. The same is still true today. The African coast is ripe with pirates, especially the waters around Somali, because men can earn only $2 a day doing legitimate work. Or they can score $4-5 million per heist. Last year, Somali pirates pocketed $238 million in ransoms.
Where’s our navy when we need them?
It is impossible to patrol and protect the thousands of miles of water infested with pirates. The Somali coastline is a 1,900-mile-long stretch that is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. Add that to the fact that pirates have gone high tech and it is an impossible situation. Nowadays, pirates in this part of the world are gangs of thugs dressed in military fatigues who use GPS systems and satellite phones to define their targets. They use super fast speedboats to carry them from their “mother ship” to the target vessel. Using sophisticated weaponry, they quickly conquer the slow-moving, unarmed ship they have targeted. Another problem is that ship owners prefer to negotiate with pirates rather than try other tactics because they need to secure their vessels quickly. They could avoid these pirate infested waters if they sailed around the Cape of Good Hope instead. But this would add another three weeks to the journey, as well as result in higher fuel costs, so they won’t do it.
So is there anything we can do about piracy?
The International Maritime Bureau was established in the early 1990s to help control the epidemic. One of the first things they did was to create a 24/7 Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If a ship’s captain sees anything suspicious or is being pursued by pirates, he can contact PRC and get help. Not only does this help a distressed vessel, it pinpoints the most dangerous places and warns other vessels. Additionally, PRC works with various governments and law enforcement agencies through combined efforts in an attempt to thwart piracy. If you’re interested, you can look up the IMB (www.icc-ccs.org) follow them on Twitter:
Furthermore, the Combined Task Force 151 was established recently. It is a special naval unit tasked with protecting shipping from piracy off the Somali coast. Also, many merchant vessels now carry armed military contractors on board.
During the era of Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, there wasn’t much that could do about pirates. Because pirates were willing to “fight ‘til the death,” most captains were (and still are) reluctant to battle buccaneers. They chose to surrender instead. If engaged, pirates typically used crude weapons, such as one-shot pistols, canons loaded with whatever could serve as ammunition, and homemade grenades hurled at the pirate ship.
Today, there are many defensive products and techniques already being used to keep pirates from ever boarding a ship, as well as several other exciting tools being invented to combat piracy. One of the latest was invented by Mace Personal Defense, in conjunction with Shipboard Defense Systems. Three-hundred gallon pressurized tanks with loop piping are installed around the ship at intervals of one hundred feet. When activated, pepper spray is released. This keeps pirates from being able to get on board. This spares the crew from having to be armed and facing a shoot out with pirates or being held captive during ransom negotiations.
Piracy has decreased, at least in this part of the world. Some pirates have gone into a new type of work–protecting illegal fishing boats. Some have now gone ashore and instead of kidnapping ships now kidnap civilians, such as missionaries, tourists, and aid workers.
Despite our best efforts, piracy will continue to be problem through the decades. There’s just too much loot to resist and too many men who like the life of a pirate…or claim they have no other options.