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Modern Pirates

Date: 05-30-09
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Daniel Sekulich

Ian Punnett welcomed journalist Daniel Sekulich, who discussed his new work on modern day pirates. According to Sekulich, incidents of piracy and seafaring crimes are two to three times higher than what is being reported and cost the maritime industry several tens of billions of dollars annually. Since the beginning of 2009 there have been 115 attempted attacks involving 479 hostages off the coast of Somalia alone, he explained, noting that between 70 and 110 mariners are currently being held hostage.

Sekulich revealed that Somali pirates usually treat their captives well, in anticipation of receiving large ransom payments for their safe return. Nigerian pirates on the other hand are often extremely violent, willing to cut off body parts and even murder their victims, he added. Sekulich suggested that even if hostages are not physically harmed, they endure the mental torture of being denied communication to the outside world and with each other for what can feel like "a sentence with no end."

Sekulich pointed to desperate economic conditions in the Third World for driving some people into piracy, but sees it as a problem that can potentially effect everybody on the planet. The recent attack on the US-flagged Maersk Alabama shows the long reach of piracy. In addition, Islamic terrorist groups, such as Al-Shabab, are being financed in part from local piracy operations. Sekulich is not hopeful about ending crime on the high seas. "If we are able to finally contain piracy in Somalia, we're going to find it cropping up somewhere else," he said.

Sekulich also spoke about his book on the shipping industry, Ocean Titans: Journeys in Search of the Soul of a Ship.

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