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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: The New Pirates by Andrew Palmer
The New Pirates: Modern Global Piracy from Somalia to the South China Sea
By Andrew Palmer
I. B. Tauris, 2014, ISBN 978-1-84885-633-2, US $35.00 / CAN $40.00 / £22.50

The New Pirates is an analysis of modern maritime piracy with particular focus on Somalia, but covering the rest of the world as well. Palmer examines underlying causes and how these pirates came to be such a menace to seafarers, the shipping industry, and society in general. Once he began writing, he found this account of piracy far more complex than he imagined. This necessitated additional resources and a wider scope to cover not only the pirates, but also politics, economics, criminal tendencies of African elites, and the “War on Terror.” In his introduction he explains the reason for the rise of pirates and provides a clear definition of what acts constitute piracy. He makes it clear that piracy changes society, “that everything in our world is interconnected,” and how the world’s economy will change because of this.

Below is a list of chapters and the subheadings that outline what is covered in each one.
1. Piracy: The Background
a. Our Perceptions of Piracy
b. The Re-emergence of Piracy in the Twenty-first Century
c. Causes and Factors
d. A Coalition of Interest Groups
e. The Growth of Piracy
2. The Political Development of Somalia
a. Somalia: Society and Clans
b. A Brief History of Somalia to 2008
c. Modern Somalia
d. Somalia’s Neighbours: Regional Conflicts and Alliances in the Horn
e. Somalia – A Failed State?
f. Failed States and Piracy
3. Stateless Territories and Clandestine Networks
a. The African Reality: Dealing with Ungoverned Spaces
b. Somali Customary Law: Xeer
c. Hidden Trade Networks in Africa
d. Criminal Networks
e. Crime as a Globalized Business
f. Money Trail
g. Money Transfers in Somalia: Xawilaad
h. The Criminalized or Predatory State
4. The Pirate Coast
a. The Key Role of Puntland in the Organization of Piracy
b. Piracy in Central and Southern Somalia
c. Pirate Leaders
d. The Origins of Modern Somali Piracy
e. Fishing and the Justification for Piracy
f. The Role of Yemen
5. The Geography of Piracy
a. Introduction
b. The North-east Indian Ocean and the Red Sea
c. Southeast Asia and the South China Sea
d. West Africa
e. South America and the Caribbean
6. Pirate Operations
a. Introduction: The Business of Piracy
b. The Attack Craft
c. Motherships
d. The Arms Trade
e. Pirate Weapons
f. Pirate Techniques
g. Changes in Strategy
h. The Use of Intelligence by Somali Pirates
i. The Pirate Business Model
j. Ransoms: The Process
k. The Cost of a Hijacking
l. The Ransoming of the MV Maran Centaurus
m. Pirate Negotiators
n. The Condition of Hostages: Threats, Abuse and Rusty Water
7. The Impact on the Shipping Industry
a. The Global Shipping Industry
b. Flag States and Ownership
c. The Economies of Scale
d. The Size of the Global Merchant Fleet
e. A Perfect Storm Causes Market Collapse
f. Post-crisis Economics and the Shipping Industry
g. The Threat to Cruise Liners
8. Legal and Insurance Issues
a. The Role of Insurers
b. Seaworthiness
c. Insurance Claims
d. Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)
e. Payment of Ransoms
f. US Presidential Order on the Payment of Ransoms
g. European Union Council Order No. 356/2010
h. The List of Prohibited Persons and Organizations
i. Uncertainties
j. A Fatal Confusion
k. Pirates and Justice
l. The Use of Armed Guards, Legal and Practical Issues
9. Vessel Defence
a. Merchant Vessels: Their Adaptive Capacity
b. Nature of the Threat to Ships: Lessons and Best Practices
c. How Vessels Dealt with Attacks
d. Practical Defensive Measures
e. The Role of Naval Forces
10. Are There Answers?
a. What the Maritime Industry Must Do
b. What Does Not Work
c. Resilient Ships
d. Setting Standards: The Role of Flag States and Maritime Organizations
e. Red Lines
f. The Big Picture
g. Failed States and Failed Policies
h. Piracy and the Predatory State: The Problem Outside Somalia
i. Drought and Famine in Somalia
j. Western Policies in the Horn
k. The Great Game in the Horn of Africa
l. What Hope for the Somalias of the World?
m. We Depend on the Sea
n. Piracy is a Manifestation of Change
Maps, charts, tables, and illustrations enhance the text, while the book includes a list of acronyms, end notes, a bibliography, and an index. On the whole, the data and examples provided encompass the period of 2009 through 2012. Although this may date some information, it does not make it any less important and informative.

What makes this an absorbing and unique examination of modern maritime piracy is the perspective from which it is written. Many such books have been written by naval personnel, journalists, or victims, but Palmer is CEO of Idarat Ltd. and has spent the majority of his life in international business. His observations provide keen insight on the problem, making it clear that only looking at it from a Western perception fails to allow the viewer to gain a more thorough understanding of it.

The New Pirates is an in-depth examination of the whole picture, rather than focusing on one or two particular aspects of piracy. It is a worthy and welcome analysis written in such a way that a layperson can easily comprehend what Palmer discusses. More importantly, as Major General Julian Thompson writes in the foreword, “Politicians, journalists, and those involved in business and commerce, and in defence should read this book . . . . This is an important book . . . by a man who knows his business.” (xii)

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
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