Maritime Piracy

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Maritime piracy—the plundering, hijacking, or detention of a ship in international waters—has evolved over the centuries but remains a challenge to international law. RAND advises a range of stakeholders—governments, militaries, and corporations—on ways to prevent or mitigate piracy activities and improve international collaboration, response, and recovery.

Explore Maritime Piracy

  • Blog

    Using Air Power Against Pirates Off West Africa

    A U.S. Official has confirmed that two mariners thought to be U.S. Citizens were kidnapped from an American ship in a pirate attack off of the West African coast — the 40th such attack reported in the Gulf of Guinea in 2013. The current security situation in the Gulf has affected petroleum and natural gas production.

    Oct 25, 2013

  • Blog

    Somali Piracy All About Economics

    The average Somali lives on less than $2 a day. Even fishermen, who are comparatively well off by national standards, face difficulties making a living due to the chronic depletion of sea stocks from years of poaching and illegal dumping of toxic waste. Under such circumstances, the allure of piracy is clear.

    Oct 11, 2013

  • News Release

    China's Growing Sea Power Can Be Countered by Technology, Maritime Cooperation

    The United States should respond to China's increasing sea power in the Western Pacific region by exploiting technology to make its naval forces less vulnerable, while also pursuing regional maritime security cooperation that includes China.

    Apr 26, 2013

  • Research Brief

    The Future of Sea Power in the Western Pacific

    Explores the future relationship between U.S. and Chinese sea power in the context of historical sea-power rivalries and recent technological developments, and discusses the potential of pursuing maritime security cooperation in the Western Pacific.

    Apr 26, 2013

  • Report

    China's Growing Sea Power Can Be Countered by Technology, Maritime Cooperation

    The United States should respond to China's increasing sea power in the Western Pacific region by exploiting technology to make its naval forces less vulnerable, while also pursuing regional maritime security cooperation that includes China.

    Apr 26, 2013

  • News Release

    U.S. Military's Role with Petroleum Is to Assure Security

    Energy purchases made by the U.S. Department of Defense do not influence world oil prices, making cutting fuel use the only effective choice to reduce what the Pentagon spends on petroleum fuels.

    Jun 19, 2012

  • Report

    Security Issues Facing the Tri-Border Area Between the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia

    The area between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia is a key hub of terrorist and related criminal activity in Southeast Asia. The Coast Watch System was designed to improve maritime domain awareness in the region but has some issues to overcome.

    May 17, 2012

  • Report

    Characterizing and Exploring the Implications of Maritime Irregular Warfare

    Although irregular warfare includes a range of activities in which naval forces have played an integral role, there has been little examination of the characteristics or potential of such operations in maritime environments. Current notions of irregular warfare would benefit from increased recognition of potential maritime contributions.

    Feb 20, 2012

  • Blog

    Industry Insights: What's So Hard About Stopping Piracy?

    Containing persistent maritime disorder might be more fruitful and could lay the foundations for a successful transition to better use of the sea once the societal factors—an even longer term problem—have been resolved, writes Laurence Smallman.

    Apr 11, 2011

  • Blog

    Kowtowing to Pirates' Ransoms Fuels Maritime Piracy

    Instead of fanning piracy, international businesses need to heed policy. Ransoms in the short term can only lead to more problems in the long term, writes Laurence Smallman.

    Apr 11, 2011

  • Blog

    Stormy Seas off Somalia: Pirate Activity Will Increase in 2011

    Only by addressing the poverty and lack of central authority in Somalia can the international community lower maritime crime and violence off the Horn of Africa, writes Peter Chalk.

    Feb 28, 2011

  • Blog

    An Old Scourge Needs a Modern Solution

    Piracy is a crime at sea, but it starts on land. To thwart the Somali piracy career path, the world community should put funds toward protecting local fishing grounds and building a national coast guard capability in Somalia, writes Peter Chalk.

    Sep 3, 2010

  • Report

    Countering Piracy in the Modern Era

    RAND recently convened a group of experts from the U.S. government, allied partner nations, the maritime industry, and academic organizations to reconsider the underlying factors that drive maritime piracy in this century. This conference proceedings highlights the six major themes that animated much of the discussion.

    Aug 20, 2009

  • Report

    RAND Review: Vol. 33, No. 2, Summer 2009

    A section on U.S. health care reform accompanies features on piracy, education priorities, emerging technologies, and Arkansas antismoking programs; other stories discuss climate change, parolees, oil risks, Mexican security, and global drug policies.

    Aug 17, 2009

  • Blog

    On Dry Land - The Onshore Drivers of Piracy

    Piracy is a growing international problem, primarily around the Horn of Africa. The international response has been largely military in nature and focused exclusively on the maritime theatre, ignoring key land drivers of piracy, which will resurface once the military actions end, write Peter Chalk and Laurence Smallman.

    Jul 3, 2009

  • Blog

    Opposing View: Keep Arms Off Ships

    Does the provision of private security contractors provide a viable solution to the growing problem of piracy off the Horn of Africa? Quite apart from the high cost — a robust security operation can run as much as $21,000 a day — employing security contractors poses problems on several fronts, writes Peter Chalk.

    May 4, 2009

  • Blog

    Who Has the Will to Fight Piracy?

    The recent French and American rescues of hostages held by pirates off the coast of Somalia were necessary and proper. No one believes these actions will end piracy. But unless we impose risks on the pirates—which means taking some risks ourselves—piracy will certainly flourish, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Apr 21, 2009

  • Blog

    Piracy Still Threatens the Freedom of the Seas

    As recent events off the Horn of Africa have demonstrated, armed violence at sea is emerging as a growing threat.... Piracy threatens the freedom of the seas, increases the cost of international business, endangers political security through corruption, and could trigger a major environmental disaster, write Peter Chalk and Laurence Smallman.

    Apr 3, 2009

  • News Release

    Organized Crime Is Increasingly Active in Film Piracy; Three Cases Link Terrorists to Piracy Profits

    Organized crime increasingly is involved in the piracy of feature films, with syndicates active along the entire supply chain from manufacture to street sales. While crime syndicates have added piracy to their criminal portfolios, the profits from film piracy also have been used on occasion to support the activities of terrorist groups.

    Mar 3, 2009