Portal:Piracy

The Piracy Portal

Introduction

The traditional "Jolly Roger" of piracy

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable goods. Those who conduct acts of piracy are called pirates, while the dedicated ships that pirates use are called pirate ships. The earliest documented instances of piracy were in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilisations. Narrow channels which funnel shipping into predictable routes have long created opportunities for piracy, as well as for privateering and commerce raiding. Historic examples include the waters of Gibraltar, the Strait of Malacca, Madagascar, the Gulf of Aden, and the English Channel, whose geographic structures facilitated pirate attacks. Privateering uses similar methods to piracy, but the captain acts under orders of the state authorising the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation, making it a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors. A land-based parallel is the ambushing of travelers by bandits and brigands in highways and mountain passes.

While the term can include acts committed in the air, on land (especially across national borders or in connection with taking over and robbing a car or train), or in other major bodies of water or on a shore, in cyberspace, as well as the fictional possibility of space piracy, it generally refers to maritime piracy. It does not normally include crimes committed against people traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator (e.g. one passenger stealing from others on the same vessel). Piracy or pirating is the name of a specific crime under customary international law and also the name of a number of crimes under the municipal law of a number of states. In the early 21st century, seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$16 billion per year in 2004), particularly in the waters between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore.

Currently, pirates armed with automatic weapons, such as assault rifles, and machine guns, grenades and rocket propelled grenades use small motorboats to attack and board ships, a tactic that takes advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels and transport ships. They also use larger vessels, known as "mother ships", to supply the smaller motorboats. The international community is facing many challenges in bringing modern pirates to justice, as these attacks often occur in international waters. Some nations have used their naval forces to protect private ships from pirate attacks and to pursue pirates, and some private vessels use armed security guards, high-pressure water cannons, or sound cannons to repel boarders, and use radar to avoid potential threats. (Full article...)

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Anonymous portrait of Jean Lafitte, early 19th century, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.JPG
Presumed portrait of Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte (c. 1780c. 1823) was a French pirate and privateer who operated in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his older brother Pierre spelled their last name Laffite, but English language documents of the time used "Lafitte". This has become the common spelling in the United States, including places named after him.

Lafitte is believed to have been born either in Basque-France or the French colony of Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean. Enslaved Africans there gained their independence from France in 1804 and renamed this territory as Haiti. (Full article...)
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Treasure being divided among pirates in an illustration by Howard Pyle.
A pirate code, pirate articles, or articles of agreement were a code of conduct for governing pirates. A group of sailors, on turning pirate, would draw up their own code or articles, which provided rules for discipline, division of stolen goods, and compensation for injured pirates. (Full article...)
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Did you know?

  • ... that there is only one account of walking the plank?
  • ... that, while it is unknown if pirates actually kept parrots as pets, it is thought that at least some captains kept cats aboard to keep populations of rats and other vermin down?
  • ... that in 2011, pirates were reported as raiding along the Danube River in the center of Europe?

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