BurDang 05-8-139


Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas



John S. Burnett

Dutton, 2002, 332 pp., ISBN 0-525-94679-9


Burnett is a former reporter for United Press.  He served as a relief worker with the United Nations in Somalia and lived for several years in East Africa.  He has spent much time on board ships and several years traveling on a yacht.  A few years ago pirates attacked him.  His shocking experience inspired him to investigate this growing, global problem.


“Today’s breed of pirates...can be local seamen looking for a quick score, highly trained guerrillas, rogue military units, or former seafarers recruited y sophisticated crime organizations.  Armed with machetes, assault rifles, and grenade launchers, they steal out in speedboats and fishing boats in search of supertankers, cargo ships, passenger ferries, cruise ships, and yachts.  They attack in port, on the open seas, and in international waters.  Entire ships, cargo, and crews simply vanish, hijacked by pirates working for multinational crime syndicates; these modern-day ghost ships often turn up later running drugs or carting illegal immigrants to the United States.” (from the fly leaf)


I didn’t decide to take notes until late in the book so I may have missed some useful information early on.


In 2001 seven American ships were attacked, fifteen from the U.K.  There were 335 assaults worldwide; w41 seafarers were killed, held hostage, or wounded.  And this does not include all that were not reported.  (10)


95% of world commerce is transported by ship.  60% of the world’s crude oil is carried on supertankers and even larger Very Large Crude Carriers. (11)


The Malacca Straits on the east side of the Indian Ocean, between Indonesia and Malaysia, is a 500-mile umbilical cord between Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent to Asia and the Pacific.  80% of Japan’s crude oil comes from the Persian Gulf and is shipped through these narrow shipping lanes.  They are some of the most pirated waters in the world. (11)


In 2000 there were 66 reported pirate attacks in Malaysian waters alone.  These do not include Malaysian fishing boats or local coaster ‘barter trade’ cargo boats, which are frequently robbed and looted.  (165)


“Indonesia today is in a shambles, the result of years of mismanagement and political upheaval; its economy is in trouble and its politics and particularly its military are riven by graft and corruption.” (165)


600 ships transit the Malacca Straits every 24 hours. (166)


The word is that the local commanders of the Indonesian navy send out these rogue patrols with orders to bring back goods and cash from passing ships.  (167)


“Informing Indonesian authorities of pirate plans would be useless, even counterproductive.” (172)


“Villagers know who is heading out of the coves on their fast boats and going after a ship; when the local boys return with cash from a ship’s safe, then much of it is distributed in the village, which assures protection.” (181)


“Basically the only difference between terrorists and pirates is the motivation.  Terrorists attack for political purposes; pirates attack for robbery.” (204)


“Hijacking occurs most frequently in waters from the Bay of Bengal to the Pacific Ocean.  Ships are not just passing targets of opportunity for rapine gangs, barefoot and poverty stricken, but...targets of well-planned operations.”  “Pirates working for organized crime strike in these international waters and often with impunity.” (218)


“Located just on the other side of the Straits, the South China Sea is a violent, unregulated no-man’s-land, the private game reserve of organized crime....”  “No law, order, or any moral code is enforced in the South China Sea....” (234-35)


“Yet the threat that concerns many is of a terrorist attack on a ship in one of the world’s strategic waterways—the Panama and Suez Canals, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Malacca Straits.  While the War on Terrorism focuses on protecting American harbors and ports, the Malacca Straits are the sea lanes most vulnerable to terrorist attack.  This, the world’s most congested channel, cuts through the heart of political and religious unrest.” (286)


“There are those in the maritime industry who fear an easy target for terrorists today is the lifeblood of the western world, its supply of crude oil.” (290)


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