Piracy was once associated with times past, when wooden sailing ships scaled the seven seas targeting trading vessels to secure their treasure. The 1724 book by Charles Johnson, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, forged the popular stereotype of peg-legged and eye-patched wearing pirates that has been mined over the years by artists such as Johnny Depp in the Hollywood blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean. Before a time of modern maritime technology and globalization piracy was a common crime. With the rise of nation states, piracy was kept in check by powerful Dutch and English fleets composed of fast sailing ships and, eventually, steam- powered vessels. Throughout the twentieth century t World Wars and a Cold War between the US and Soviet Russia meant that the seas were occupied by vast amounts of naval vessels dominating the oceans portraying a show of power. This of course deterred acts of piracy and kept it to an absolute minimum. However the rise of piracy in recent years off the horn of Africa, particularly off the coast of Somalia has caused international concern. Targeting the shipping lanes around the gulf of Aden, which links trade between East and West has meant vital trade has been halted and a feeling of terror at sea has settled. Within this essay I would like to define piracy, what does it actually mean and how do the global communities define it? I also believe it is important to establish the reason why it is happening, is it purely down to greed or a way to provide a living? Are the profits from piracy funding Islamist groups such as al-Shabaab? Does this then bring about implications for Western policy? All these questions need to be answered before culminating my arguments in a series of recommendations regarding the future actions of the international community.
Piracy is not a new phenomenon, it is a form of crime that has existed since the time of the Romans.