Episode 153: Modern Piracy: The Scourge of the Seas!

This episode is brought to you by El Yucateco

On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we talk about modern-day piracy. Not the computer type, but good old fashioned steal your boat, rape your women, rob your booty type of piracy. For the past twenty years, it has been on the rise as the world becomes more interconnected, and so much commerce is being moved through shipping lanes on the sea. In fact, last year, experts estimate that around $16 Billion in piracy was reported by shipping companies, but that this is a small fraction of the true cost since most of it doesn’t get reported.

So how do modern pirates operate? You might be surprised. First, they don’t sail up on massive ships with canons blazing like they did in the old days. In fact, they come in very small vessels that may hold as few as four people, and instead of cannons, they have AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades. They often come on fast and attack defenseless ships, boarding, stealing what they can, and leaving quickly.

However, they have other tactics as well, such as hostages and ransoms paid by shipping companies, theft of fishing hauls, and the taking of massive shipping vessels where pirates seize the entire ship and dock it in a pirate-friendly port and use the local government or organized crime to offload tons of goods on the ship. This happens in major shipping areas, most often Somalia, near China (and often funded by the Chinese government according to many investigations), and near the Panama Canal.

Piracy is often surprisingly well planned. It is often funded by a handful of investors who recruit from a poor population in a third world country who are willing to do anything to feed their families. These people are given weapons, ammo, gas, a drug called qat, and a ship by the investors, and the pirates start out in debt. They only get to pay it back and make any money if they successfully steal on the high seas. We even talk about a Pirate Stock Exchange that runs in several countries and lets people invest in pirate raids to get a percentage of the booty!

We round out the show with a discussion of the famous Maersk Alabama piracy off the coast of Somalia. This is what the Tom Hanks film was based on, but the crew says Captain Phillips was less a loveable hero and more a greedy dumb ass who put them all at risk. What happened to the crew? Who was the awesome crew member who stabbed one in the neck? How many days was Phillips forced to live on an escape raft with the pirates? What complete badassery did the Navy Seals pull off to rescue him (warning—Brad gets a little misty about how awesome it is). Listen, laugh, learn.

You can find some of the maps and live pirate reporting we talk about on the show at the following URL: https://icc-ccs.org/

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