Pirate FlagPirates and PrivateersPirate Flag
The History of Maritime Piracy

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

Pirate Articles
Pirate Links
Book Reviews
Thistles & Pirates

Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: Piracy,
        Maritime Terrorism and Securing the Malacca Straits
Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Securing the Malacca Straits
edited by Graham Gerard Ong-Webb
International Institute for Asian Studies and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
2006, ISBN 978-981-230-391-2, US $29.90 / Singapore $39.90
(Also available electronically either as a whole or by individual chapters)


Although we equate pirates with history, maritime piracy remains a problem even today. Many attacks occur in the waters of Southeast Asia, which poses particular challenges to those who attempt to thwart these criminals. Combating such activity, as well as that of terrorism, has taken on new importance since the attacks of September 11th, for anything that happens in these waters will have a profound impact internationally. Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Securing the Malacca Straits is the second in a series to promote research on and explore methods to curb piracy and terrorism within a vital sea lane between the Indian and Pacific Oceans used by in excess of 50,000 commercial ships each year.

The introduction recaps the first book, Piracy in Southeast Asia (2005), and explains the differing definitions of maritime piracy. This second volume is a collection of papers that address various aspects of the twenty-five research questions defined in the first book. These cover the geopolitics of piracy, the conflation between piracy and terrorism, the criminology and economics of piracy, and the transformation of the meaning of piracy.

Twelve essays comprise the main content of the book. What follows is a brief look at what each one covers and who wrote it.

  • “Piracy, Armed Robbery and Terrorism at Sea: A Global and Regional Outlook” discusses the trends and developments in piracy and how nations are working to fight it. It is written by Jayant Abhyankar, the Deputy Director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). He analyzes what’s happened since the essay he wrote in the first book through late 2004 and offers suggestions for future action that might be taken against the pirates. He also looks at the environmental impact of attacks.
  • Brian Fort is the author of “Transnational Threats and the Maritime Domain.” A Commander in the United States Navy, he is a member of the Joint Staff and has served on several naval vessels, most recently as Executive Officer of the aegis cruise USS Port Royal. He reviews threats that transcend national boundaries, discusses the link between piracy and terrorism and how to combat these threats. Throughout the essay he draws on his own experiences.
  • Eduardo Ma R. Santos, the author of “Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Philippines,” is President of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific and a retired Vice Admiral of the Philippine Navy. He focuses on armed robbery and piracy in his country, examining the factors and trends, political and socio-economic impacts, government counter-measures, and regional cooperation against pirates.
  • “Political Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: A Comparison between the Straits of Malacca and the Southern Philippines” is Stefan Eklöf’s contribution. He discusses political piracy and the threat of terrorism in these two regions. He is a Research Fellow at the Department of History and a lecturer at the Centre for Asian Studies at Göteborg University.
  • Eric Frécon is the author of “Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea along the Malacca Straits: Initial Impressions in the Riau Islands.” His field observations in the “maritime ghettos” of Indonesia provide an interesting first-hand account that includes interviews with pirates. He is a Doctoral Candidate at the Institute of Political Science in Paris, France.
  • “The Politics of Anti-Piracy and Anti-Terrorism Responses in Southeast Asia” is written by Mark J. Valencia, a Maritime Policy Analyst based in Hawaii. His essay examines the similarities and differences of piracy and terrorism, the causes and consequences of piracy, and the various initiatives and conventions aimed at fighting these problems.
  • A Postgraduate Research Student at the School of Asian Studies at Murdoch University in Australia, Carolin Liss looks at “Private Military and Security Companies in the Fight against Piracy in Southeast Asia.” She examines the services they offer, as well as the obstacles and benefits of utilizing this growing business to combat piracy.
  • J. N. Mak, a Maritime Policy Analyst in Malaysia, examines “Unilaterialism and Regionalism: Working Together and Alone in the Malacca Straits.” He provides insight into how and under what circumstances cooperation occurs, including the constraints and obstacles that influence united efforts to combat piracy because maritime nations and coastal states have different agendas.
  • “Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia: The Evolution and Progress of Intra-ASEAN Cooperation” examines the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ role in thwarting pirate attacks from the seventies through today and beyond. Tamara Renee Shie focuses on specific situations and factors that affect suppression efforts to better understand the obstacles that must be overcome in order to present a unified front in the fight against pirates. She is a Research Associate at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D. C.
  • Ahmad Ghazali Bin Abu Hassan discusses “The Rhine Navigation Regime: A Model for the Straits of Malacca?” to see whether the multi-national navigation and management regimes that work for this European waterway might be applied to the Malaccan Straits. A retired Lieutenant Colonel, he currently is a Lecturer at the Universiti Utara in Malaysia.
  • Senior Lecturer in Maritime Business at the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania, Jose L. Tongson contributes “Whither the Malacca Straits? The Rise of New Hub Ports in Asia.” He evaluates the Straits’ importance in trade and examines the possible threats to that waterway by new ports, as well as their impact on hub ports like Singapore and Malaysia.
  • Xu Ke, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Maritime Studies at the National University of Singapore, writes about “Piracy, Seaborne Trade and the Rivalries of Foreign Sea Powers in East and Southeast Asia, 1511 to 1839: A Chinese Perspective.” Xu reviews the history of piracy and trade in pre-colonial times, then surveys the colonial period and clashes between the Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch, and British versus the Chinese Empire. Finally, the essay discusses how colonists of the former interacted with the merchant pirates of the latter.
Graphs and charts accompany some essays. All chapters include notes that provide further explanations and/or resources consulted. There is also an extensive index.

This is one of the most thorough examinations of modern piracy that I’ve read, and while some of the data and information is cited more than once, this collection provides readers with a good overview on the topic. It explains what is and is not being done to combat piracy in this region and why. While all are readable and easy to follow, the two essays that most intrigued me were Frécon’s field observations of Indonesian pirates and Xu’s examination of the history of piracy in the region. Unless we understand the past, we cannot understand how it impacts the present. Both provide excellent views as to how piracy in Southeast Asia differs from the piracy we most often read about – the buccaneers and golden age pirates of the Caribbean.

Something else that intrigued me after reading these essays is the consensus among the writers that piracy and maritime terrorism are different, and that while there may be a link between the two, there are no hard facts to suggest that pirates and terrorists are actually working together.

Two concerns I have are that the most recent data seems to be from 2004, which may date the book, and the lack of copyediting. Too often I encountered duplication of words within sentences, which sometimes made it necessary to reread the sentence to understand it. Those points aside, though, this is an essential volume for anyone interested in maritime piracy today. After I finished the book, I had a better understanding of why history, politics, and national interests have such an impact on the cooperation between countries to fight these criminals.


Review copyrighted © 2007 Cindy Vallar

Pirate Articles
Pirate Links
Book Reviews
Thistles & Pirates

Contact Me
Click on the Cannon to Contact Me