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This article is about maritime piracy. For software, copyright and trademark piracy see Copyright Infringement.

A typical "Jolly Roger" flag associated with pirates

Piracy is defined by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as: "an act of boarding or attempting to board any ship with the intent to commit theft or any other crime and with the attempt to or capability to use force in the furtherance of that act,"[1] while the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) defines it as: "illegal acts of violence or detention acts committed on the high seas, or outside the jurisdiction of a coastal state, for private ends by private ship against another private ship," which is in concordance with Article 101 of the United Nations (UN) Law of the Sea.[2] The distinction is subtle but important, as the UN law allows many piratical acts which occur within national waters to be classed as armed robbery, rather than piracy. It is a common misconception that piracy is no longer a threat to the world's shipping in the 21st century - in 1992, the escalating number of piracy incidents led to the establishment of a Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tasked with "raising awareness of piracy hotspots, detailing specific attacks and their consequences, and investigating incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea and in port. Another role entails working with national governments on a range of initiatives to reduce and ultimately eradicate attacks against ships."[3] In the first six months of 2007, there were 126 pirate attacks, with 13 vessels hijacked, 152 crew members taken hostage, 41 kidnapped and 3 killed.[4] At present, Somalian pirates have hijacked a considerable number of vessels off the East African cost and Arabian peninsula, but this number is falling now that various nations, including the US and China, have deployed warships to the area.


  1. Johnson, Derek S. and Pladdet, Erika Maritime Piracy in Asia International Institute for Asian Studies Accessed July 13 2007
  2. Johnson et al, op cit
  3. Overview IMB Piracy Reporting Centre Accessed July 13 2007
  4. IMB report cites spike in piracy dated July 12 2007 International Maritime Bureau Accessed July 13 2007