Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

Piracy - threat or nuisance?

Alessandro Schieffler

February 2010

NATO Defense College


Aspate of high-profile hijackings over the New Year and the publication of the 2009 Annual Piracy Report issued by the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre in mid-January have brought the piracy problem back on stage. Despite the employment of naval forces from the European Union, NATO and various nations in counter-piracy and counter-terrorism missions, the figures for 2009 are alarming: according to reports, from 2008 to 2009 piracy grew by almost 40%. It is not only since pirates captured the Sirius Star, a tanker carrying about 25% of Saudi Arabia's daily oil production, that we have also started to worry about the possible economic damage caused by these piratical activities: about 95% of all world trade is handled by maritime transport, with the shipping business itself accounting for 5% of global GDP. About 50,000 vessels are employed, most of them passing through bottlenecks such as the Gulf of Aden or the Malacca Straits, and therefore are exposed to attacks from ashore. Fears about the high economic cost of piracy seem therefore all too justified.