Piracy is typically an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. The term has been used throughout history to refer to raids across land borders by non-state agents.
Piracy or pirating is the name of a specific crime under customary international law .
1. Articles 101 to 103 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (1982) contain a definition of piracy iure gentium. They read:
Definition of piracy
Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed—
b) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
c) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
d) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
e) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).
Piracy by a warship, government ship or government aircraft whose crew has mutinied
The acts of piracy, as defined in article 101, committed by a warship, government ship or government aircraft whose crew has mutinied and taken control of the ship or aircraft are assimilated to acts committed by a private ship or aircraft.
Definition of a pirate ship or aircraft
A ship or aircraft is considered a pirate ship or aircraft if it is intended by the persons in dominant control to be used for the purpose of committing one of the acts referred to in article 101. The same applies if the ship or aircraft has been used to commit any such act, so long as it remains under the control of the persons guilty of that act.
This definition was formerly contained in articles 15 to 17 of the Convention on the High Seas signed at Geneva on April 29, 1958.It was drafted by the International Law Commission.
A limitation of article 101 above is that it confines piracy to the High Seas.
2. IMB definition
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) defines piracy as:
The act of boarding any vessel with an intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act.
3. Uniformity in Maritime Piracy Law
Given the diverging definitions of piracy in international and municipal legal systems, some authors argue that greater uniformity in the law is required in order to strengthen anti-piracy legal instruments.
Under a principle of international law known as the “universality principle”, a government may “exercise jurisdiction over conduct outside its territory if that conduct is universally dangerous to states and their nationals. The rationale behind the universality principle is that states will punish certain acts “wherever they may occur as a means of protecting the global community as a whole, even absent a link between the state and the parties or the acts in question.” Under this principle, the concept of “universal jurisdiction” applies to the crime of piracy
The fourth volume of the handbook: Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and in the Arabian Sea Area (known as BMP4) is the current authoritative guide for merchant ships on self-defense against pirates.
Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea affects a number of countries in West Africa as well as the wider international community. By 2011, it had become an issue of global concern. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are often part of heavily armed criminal enterprises, which employ violent methods to steal oil cargo. In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program reported that the number of vessels attacks by West African pirates had reached a world high, with 966 seafarers attacked during the year. According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had by mid-November 2013 maintained a steady level of around 100 attempted hijackings in the year, a close second behind Southeast Asia.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the War in the early 21st century. Since 2005, many international organizations have expressed concern over the rise in acts of piracy. Piracy impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated $6.6 to $6.9 billion a year in global trade in 2011 according to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).
Piracy in the Strait of Malacca has for long been a threat to ship owners and the mariners who ply the 900 km-long (550 miles) sea lane.
The Strait of Malacca’s geography makes the region very susceptible to piracy. It was and still is an important passageway between China and India, used heavily for commercial trade. The strait is on the route between Europe, the Suez Canal, the oil-exporting countries of the Persian Gulf, and the busy ports of East Asia. It is narrow, contains thousands of islets, and is an outlet for many rivers, making it ideal for pirates to hide in to evade capture.