The purpose of the research is to investigate the phenomenon of piracy, research its location, pirates’ motivation, and global community engagement. By analyzing the most essential connections of the concept and its systemic features the multilayer nature of piracy and its complex structure becomes clear. In this way, the research compares different definitions of the term and motive interpretations to highlight its complicated essence. Reviewing the recent information, the research shows that the crucial role of pirates’ motivation plays the social motive, thus, the need to provide better living conditions. A thorough analysis of the problem reviled that the issue includes various factors that influence the current situation.

Piracy and International Trade Routes


One of the most vulnerable issues of today marine security is the threat of piracy. Pirates attack cargo vessels, tankers, bulkers, and other kinds of vessels to kidnap sailors, and steal money and cargo. Sometimes they steal a whole vessel. Though digitalization and computerization have created all preconditions for the safe realization of vessel operation, the problem of hijacking steal remains a real danger for both crew members and transported cargo. This kind of criminal activity blooms in different places and with different intensities. Modern pirates are well organized and educated to enable hijacking operations. The high level of the organization becomes one of the sufficient aspects in spreading and success of piracy. Since pirates represent an existential threat to sailors and private property, the solution usually involves military forces. The concept itself is a vivid example of globalism and corporations’ activity. In this way, modern piracy must be also considered as a result of continuous antisocial political vectors of the state, and multinational enterprises. Indeed, the evidence of piracy creates problems on international trade routes and endangers sailors’ life and private property safety. In addition to that, the concept is of a multilayer nature. Thereby, all aspects regarding modern piracy, pirates’ motivation, the geography of piracy, and above all its definition should be researched to consider the subject coherently, realizing its interconnection with essential world processes.


Though the term ”piracy” is a well-known concept, the modern definition varies in its meaning. The notion obtains new peculiar features, depending on the organization and the interesting side. In this way, the most common definition, that is utilized by the shipping industry is the IMB’s definition. It states that any attempt to hijack or attack a ship is piracy without taking into consideration whether the ship is hijacked in the territorial waters or the international territory (Elmi, Affi, Knight & Mohamed, 2015). However, there are also other different definitions of the term. Thus, Geneva Convention on the High Seas states that only the violence and depredation done by private ships or even private aircraft on the high seas may be defined as piracy (See United Nations, 1958). In this way, these two definitions are not the same. Moreover, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA) defines the term ”pirate” as a person who exercises control over a ship by force or by weapon (Elmi, et al, 2015). Thereby, SUA also does not take into consideration whether the act of piracy was done on high seas or in territorial waters, which, in its turn, complements the first definition (Elmi, et al, 2015). All definitions denote the concept in a negative context, however, pirates themselves often talk about themselves in a less accusing manner.

The most important thing that should be considered is that the definition of the phenomenon mainly depends on the definition of the notion that made people start hijacking. Since in researching the issue of modern piracy the Somali problems come as inescapable evidence, it is worth considering the definition of Somali people regarding piracy (Palmer, 2014). The word ”pirate” in Somali is buread badeed means ”ocean robber” (Bahadur, 2011). However, Somali pirates like to call themselves bacladinta badah – ”saviors of the sea” or something like coast guard (Bahadur, 2011). Jay Bahadur, a Canadian journalist, who dared to interview the captain of Somali pirates who informed that he was a former artisanal lobster driver and earned money in such a way (Bahadur, 2011). The reason for his current activity became the rapid devastation of the lobster population on the coast of Eyl by Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean fishing trawlers (Bahadur, 2011). The fact of utter exploitation of Somali territorial waters has caused the reduction of marine habitats.


Apart from the illegal activity of foreign fishing ships, Somalia has also experienced another unfair damage. The tsunami that hit the Somali coastline in 2004 exposed containers that contained high toxic radioactive nuclear waste (Elmi, et al 2015). Interestingly, some researchers even define this toxic pollution of the Somali coastline as a type of piracy (Elmi, et al 2015). Considering this evidence it is clear that there are two views on pirates’ motivation -the instrumentalist and the reactionist points of view (Elmi, et al 2015). While instrumentalists believe that the main causes of pirates are statelessness and crime opportunity to get valuable resources (Elmi, et al 2015). Indeed, this kind of activity has become an organized network with specific systemic features.

On the other hand, the defenders of piracy are convinced that it was the act of reaction to illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping (Elmi, et al 2015). In some sort, they protected their territory from foreign invasions in the context of rural justice. Because of the tribal roots of modern Somalia society, where the conflict for resources had a deep historical origin, the modern pirates believe they take fair taxes from foreign vessels (Palmer, 2014). A similar tendency may be found in the Scottish Highlands, Afghanistan, Modern Yemen, and some parts of Saudi Arabia (Palmer, 2014). As a result of the vague definition of the initial term, a lot of ambiguities have appeared. All and all, the phenomenon of modern piracy is nothing else but the result of multinational enterprises’ policymaking.

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International Trade Routes

Naturally, piracy is becoming more and more popular among desperate and unemployed people in case of their close location to the sea. Somalia is not the only place that requires resources for its vital needs; the same tendency has been spread in Southeast Asia and the West coast of Africa (Palmer, 2014). As a rule, cargo vessels use Suez Canal and then The Gulf of Aden to shortcut the route, however, the Gulf of Aden has become a danger zone due to its close location to Somalia (Johnson, 2014). This International trade route has been always used as the main shortcut for a long period. However, today this territory is famous for frequent pirate hijackings and violence towards cargo vessels. Numerous pirate groups have been hijacking here for decays.

As a result of frequent hijackings, companies changed their shipping route (Johnson, 2014). A so-called Alternative route was used to avoid the danger zone. Generally, piracy is spread near the Western and Eastern coasts, Indonesia, India, and less alongside South America (Burlando & Cristea & Lee, 2015). In this way, pirate groups attacked the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea (World Tribune, 2012). According to the research, provided by the University of Oregon, the attacks in Southeast Asia predominated over attacks in the Gulf of Adan Region until 2008 (Burlando, at el 2015). Since then, Somali pirates are the most active groups which are engaged in hijacking and the Horn of Africa is the most hazardous place for shipping.

Consequently, other international routes are dangerous. In this way, the Indian Sub-Continent appeared to be also involved in piracy (Bansassi, 2010). However, in this zone, there are fewer hijackings compared to the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia. The report investigating the frequency of the tendency in various regions highlighted the rapid spread of piracy between 2008 – 2012 (Perlberg, 2013). Perlberg states that due to the militarization of the aforementioned zones, the level of piracy has decreased by 90 percent and will remain the same (Perlberg, 2013). Indeed, pirates kidnapped 966 sailors in West Africa in 2012 (Cowell, 2013). The statistics show that Suez Canal Route together with the Cape Route is the most common region for pirate attacks (Bansassi, 2010). These international routes are located not far from the coast so that pirates’ small boats can capture cargo vessels. Perlberg was right though, hijacking cases have come back in 2017 (Gibbons-Neff, 2017). In this way, Somali pirates captured the vessel first since 2012 (Gibbons-Neff, 2017). They have managed to fulfill ”five or six” operations in the region (Gibbons-Neff, 2017). Apart from the African region, Southeast Asia has also experienced pirate activity (Tharoor, 2014). According to the statistics, the Malacca Strait is the most dangerous place for trade vessels, at the same time, tens of thousands of cases of hijackings occur in the South China Sea (Tharoor, 2014). The increased frequency of pirate activity states that the reasons for its appearance are systemic.

Since the tendency is spread all over the globe the policy vector against piracy activity is not efficient enough. Of course, utter militarization of the Horn of Africa has significantly decreased the trend, but the army cannot cure the specific diagnostic symptom of piracy.

Global Community Engagement

Considering all the aforementioned arguments that state the complexity and multilayer essence of the phenomenon, there is no surprise that the global community does not respond appropriately to the issue. The fact of modern piracy and its popularity in the 21st century is just the result and the outcome of provided policy. Palmer compares it to the iceberg as most of the reasons causing piracy are under the mater-line (Palmer, 2014). He also writes that piracy in Somalia involves a system of criminal structures of interest groups, local political forces, and its unique hierarchy with tribal leaders and foreign backers together with lawyers and banks (Palmer, 2014). In this way, it is difficult to consider all political forces engaged in the piracy business. Since the network is well organized and functions, all sides are interested in further cooperation.

Besides, as was mentioned before, the evidence of piracy is exploited to earn money. Thus, companies that provide armed guards, as sailors are strictly forbidden to care guns, receive income from piracy. Media sources are also interested, as it is the topic that may be speculated on and also become a source of getting profits. Salopek is also subtle that while Somalis lose 300 million dollars to illegal fishing, the global community loses less than such sums (Salopek, 2008). This information is dated back to 2008, however it does not take into consideration toxic pollution and the exterminating methods of fishing, as they diminish the spawn (Bahamur, 2011). Thereby, the global community has no intention to improve the environmental situation near Somali or similar pirate zones. There is no reason to build trade colonies in Somalia. The best profit, global corporations can get from this place is to pollute this territory with nuclear toxic wastes or to send fishing ships to illegally catch fish. Of course, these intentions are only capitalists’ motivation. However, the global community has been not helping for a long period (Bahadur, 2011). If to consider the issue as a continuous act of reaction, it becomes obvious that the global community is not interested in cooperation.

Unfortunately, the fact of the recent pirate attack is not an exception regarding only Somali. There have been noticed numerous pirate attacks in Venezuela (Faiola, 2018). Ordinary people were kidnapped and threatened by armed people speaking Spanish (Faiola, 2018). This vivid example demonstrates one more time that the phenomenon of modern piracy is of a systemic nature. The most important thing in fighting piracy is to understand that the main reasons people become pirates are socially motivated causes.

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Generally, the main problem of piracy is that it is just a result of the former provided by the previous government and unintentional provocations of foreign activity. Thus, there is no one-shot reform to fix the problem (Palmer, 2014). Certainly, the problem deals with political, commercial causes, and criminal syndicates (Palmer, 2014). One more reason and sufficient factor that caused piracy is the depression which had a great influence on the shipping industry (Palmer, 2014). As was mentioned before, piracy is just the tip of the iceberg. In this way, the real multilayer of problems is situated beyond the surface and includes numerous interests and confrontations between capitalists and common workers.

Alternative solution

Since the social nature of piracy origin is obvious, there is no doubt that the improvement of social issues within Somali or other countries would significantly improve the situation. In this way, the main pushing factor of piracy in Somalia is unemployed youth (Sterio, 2010). Consequently, there is no need to prove that the industrialization of Somalia would help the situation a lot. Since piracy has been the main concern for sailors in the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and South Asia since 1995, it becomes clear that the Soviet Union’s disintegration has caused the rapid development of unipolar world order (Bendall, 2010). The new world order became the trigger point to establish its policymaking. Thus, the international community may help by launching the process of industrialization and urbanization of such places as Somalia. Somali requires schools (Bahadur, 2014). Due to the reduction of unemployed youth, the popularity of piracy within the region would also be significantly reduced.

On the other hand, the issue may greatly progress in the case of estimation of one and the only definition of piracy. That would significantly ease the majority of ambiguities concerning the treatment of the phenomenon, court sessions, legislative system, media commentaries, and perception of the concept in Europe and the USA. One more essential thing that should be considered is the realization of the social motivation of pirates, who aim to satisfy their own needs and the needs of their families.


In conclusion, the concept of modern piracy is an extremely difficult and multilayer phenomenon. The leading organizations cannot even find a consensus in defining the term itself. In this way, the current tendency is interconnected with world policy and international relationships. At the same time, it is a deeply social event, since the absolute majority of despaired men engaged in piracy are socially motivated. All in all, modern piracy should be reviewed as a diagnostic symptom of a capitalistic society. By researching its definition, geography, pirates’ motivation, and objective causes it is clear that the evidence of piracy is the outcome of modern policy, not of states and nations. Global corporations are strongly engaged in the piracy business and use territories for fishing of toxic waste utilization. In this way, the global community is also partially engaged in the issue. Finally, the local government itself appears to be corrupted and also engaged in illegal business. All aforementioned make the problem of piracy highly politicized. As a result, the policymaking regarding the issue is similarly unfocused.

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