Maritime Piracy


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.

  • The U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama container ship docked at the Kenyan coastal sea port of Mombasa, April 12, 2009


    Somali Piracy All About Economics

    Oct 10, 2013

    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.

Explore Maritime Piracy

  • The Indonesian frigate KRI Karel Satsuit Tubin in an exercise with the USCG Cutter Sherman, July 15, 2006


    Indonesia-China Tensions in the Natuna Sea: Evidence of Naval Efficacy Over Coast Guards?

    The notion that Southeast Asian countries should employ coast guards instead of navies to enforce maritime laws had been gaining currency. But many of the coast guard fleets lack sufficient capacity to deal with the threats along their coast and in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

    Jul 5, 2016

  • Transportation soldiers and civilian harbormasters move cargo containers onto awaiting vessels in a training exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis


    Ten Years After the Safe Port Act, Are America's Ports Secure?

    The economic importance and visibility of America's ports make them attractive terrorism targets. Port security has improved, but many of the threats that motivated the Safe Ports Act in 2006 remain, and new dangers have emerged, including cyber threats.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • LNG tanker on a Spanish river


    Examining the Possible Consequences of a Deliberate Attack on Tankers

    Maritime terrorism and piracy pose a security threat to tanker transportation around the world. The European Commission (DG MOVE) has commissioned RAND Europe to lead a study on the possible consequences of a deliberate attack against liquefied natural gas, oil and chemical tankers. The study considers a range of potential threat scenarios and seeks to inform discussion on effective mitigation strategies in the face of these threats.

    May 13, 2015

  • A U.S. Navy boat patrols the waters of Nigeria's Lagos harbor, March 24, 2009


    Why the Dangerous New Turn for Piracy Matters

    Off the western coast of Africa, just north of the equator, the Gulf of Guinea has endured piracy for decades. But recent spikes in new, more dangerous forms of piracy imply a troubling sense of invincibility in the minds of the perpetrators.

    Apr 29, 2014

  • maritime training in the Gulf of Guinea


    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

  • The Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy Jiangkai-class frigate Linyi (FFG 547) moors alongside the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao (DDG 113) following the ships' arrival.

    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

  • Postcard of USS Connecticut (BB-18) 1906


    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

  • 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 18, 2012

  • Report

    What Can Be Done to Increase Asia's Sea-Lane Security?

    The sea lanes that supply Asia's energy needs are already vulnerable to geopolitical concerns and the threat of piracy. One approach to protecting them would be employ multiple U.S. military and government elements; a second would be to promote the capabilities of and cooperation among nations in the region.

    Jun 18, 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

  • Commentary

    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

  • Commentary

    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

  • Commentary

    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

  • Commentary

    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

  • Periodical

    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

  • Commentary

    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