As indicated in my FAQ's, piracy still exists, especially in the South China Sea, The Straight of Malacca and off the coast of Brazil. On my last trip through the South China Sea and The Straight of Malacca, which was at night, the ship went to "lockdown", that is all external doors were locked along with all cabin doors, due to the potential threat of pirates attacking the ship. Of course there was no problem. Going to a lockdown situation is much like the precaution of fastening your seat belt in your auto, though the chance of a pirates attack is less than an auto accident, "stuff" happens. To my knowledge, no passengers have been the victims of a pirate attack, however, in order to insure this web sight has as much information as possible regarding freighter travel, I am including a transcript of an article originally appearing in the March/April, 1998 issue of the newspaper, "The Sea".
"The number of crew killed in piracy attacks virtually doubled last year to 51, according the report of the International Maritime Bureau. The rising use of violence by pirates is also highlighted by a trebling of the number of seafarers injured.
The bureau reports a total of 229 attacks on ships, either at sea, at anchor or in port. While this has barely risen from the 1996 figure of 228, the increasing level of violence is giving cause for concern. Indonesia is the area of highest risk, despite a decline in the number of attacks there last year. Thailand is second and Brazil third. Brazil has come in for particular criticism both for the greatest use of guns in piracy attacks there and for what is seen as the inadequacy of its costal guard.
Executive director Eric Ellen said that the report "once again highlights that modern piracy is violent, bloody and ruthless. It is made all the more fearsome because its victims know they are alone and defenceless".
In one incident a young engineer aboard a Cosco boxship off Manila's breakwater was shot by pirates as he tried to raise the alarm. Another Cosco vessel was loading in Sri Lanka when she came under fire from Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Four crew died in the subsequent gun battle between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan navy.
Figures released by the bureau that pirates carried guns on 68 occasions and knives on a further 26. Over 400 crew members were taken hostage, more than double the previous year's figure of 194. Some 14 ships were hijacked, mostly in south east Asia and the Far East.
The report warns that people in Chinese military uniforms are intercepting a ship off southern China and forcing them to sail to nearby ports where the cargo is forcibly discharged. It says that "it is unacceptable that China, a major maritime nation, has failed to take action against this type of criminal activity were local government employees are clearly involved."
Said Mr. Ellen: "Seafarers have a basic right to expect to sail on safe ships in safe waters and no one ashore can fully appreciate the trauma of these types of attacks cause them, both physically and mentally. Added to this is the danger to shipping and the seaways that can result from pirate activity. Pirates endanger navigation by leaving vessels, including fully loaded tankers, under way and not in command, dramatically increasing the risks of collisions or grounding and the resulting environmental implications."
In an unusual variation on the theme of hijacking, Somali pirates are demanding a ransom for the return of a merchant vessels they seize as they are "sailing off the coast."
For more information on modern day pirates, follow this link.