The UN Security Council Addresses Piracy

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This service medal, issued during the Korean War, shows the insignia of the United Nations. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. In response to the continual threat of piracy, the United Nations Security Council recently held its first ever debate on the subject. Lead by Indian ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the council debated the need for better information sharing techniques, whether or not to continue using armed guards on merchant vessels, and the need for more powerful international laws and punishments for pirates. The full article is available HERE.

The fact that this is the first time piracy has ever been directly discussed and debated in the United Nations Security Council is an indication that, sadly, piracy is not on the decline. Rather, the debate reinforces the notion that piracy still is, and will continue to be, a powerful hostile force that the nations of the world need to unite against. Although many recent steps taken off the Somali coast have given us hope that piracy can eventually be defeated, it will likely be a long, hard journey to reach that conclusion. Perhaps the nations of the world can unite and crush this scourge in the near future. However, until that happens our maritime workers must live under an ever-present threat of harm and death from piracy, and consumers around the world will have to pay a little extra for many of the products we take for granted.   Read more

Pirates in Anglo-American Culture

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A Jolly Roger flag flown by the USS Ranger. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Hello again, readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. A quick look at modern popular culture will make it clear even to the most casual of observers that the Caribbean Pirates of the 17th and 18th century are icons in family entertainment. Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” series has been immensely successful, and the 20th century is full of films about swashbuckling heroes and adventures at sea. And yet, a sampling of our news headlines paints a very different picture of piracy: container ships are ransacked, crews held for ransoms, and tourists are kidnapped or killed. Indeed, the world recognizes this problem and has deployed dozens of warships to counter the pirate threat to commerce and personal safety. Why is there such a dichotomy on the subject of piracy?

As a historian, it seems to me that the issue of piracy meets its natural response in the modern headlines: piracy has been reviled and combated since time immemorial, as it should be. The catch is that people also like stories of adventure, romance and rooting for the underdog. English (and by extension, American) culture especially has always had a bit of a rebellious streak, with heroes like Robin Hood robbing the superfluously rich and thumbing their noses at a corruption. For the Anglo-American world, pirates served as an excellent source of rebellious fun once they had faded into the past a bit, and books like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island capitalized on this fun in the late 1800s. About two centuries had passed since the buccaneers had last prowled the Caribbean, and it seemed safe to feature pirates as a source of adventure.   Read more

A New Sentinel

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A Filipino Pirate poses with an M-14. Photo by Nitin Vadakul. From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello there readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Some of you may be aware that recent security measures taken by maritime shipping and military forces have contributed to a marked decrease in piracy across the globe, especially off the coast of Somalia. Measures such as arming ships crews, attacking pirate strongholds and increasing naval patrols have all helped reduce this blight on our waterways. However, many people are worried that one measure in particular – arming ships crews – may have a greater negative effect than it does positive gain. In response to arming crews, some pirates are increasing their own firepower and ruthlessness in order to capture their prize.

But hope is not lost! The new security company Marine MTS based in the British city of Aberdeen has developed a new remote vessel tracking system called Sentinel. Sentinel is a software package that monitors the location of a vessel on the water, and can compare this location to local weather and security warnings in order to help the vessel avoid them. In addition, if the vessel departs from its intended course, it can be tracked and followed by operators at Maritime MTS.   Read more

Lloyd's Casualty Week

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The table of contents for the week of July 1st, 2011. Click for a much bigger view! From The Mariners’ Museum Library collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Library blog. Since the early 1700s, Lloyd’s List has been an excellent go-to source for information regarding shipping news. Lloyd’s List – or rather, lists – cover a large swath of information, from updates on worldwide commercial ports to a tabulation of worldwide ship losses. That last particular tabulation is called Lloyd’s Casualty Week, and here at The Mariners’ Museum Library we have a collection of that exact series that stretches from July of 1950 up to the end of 2011. Inside, an amalgamation of all the recent ship casualties is listed on a weekly basis, from natural disasters to fires and even piracy. That last category is especially relevant nowadays, when the global pirating of merchant and personal vessels is more widely recognized in the media.

 

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An Old Claim

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The CSS Alabama was sunk by the USS Kearsage, but not before causing considerable damage to the American merchant marine. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Many of the posts on this blog over the past few months have concerned the SS United States. While this blog will by no means abandon the proud ship as a subject matter, it will nonetheless begin to focus on a new topic: Maritime Piracy. Piracy is an issue that comes up frequently in our news, especially in the past few years. Just yesterday, naval forces from France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands worked together to catch numerous pirates that had stolen boats and taken hostages in the Gulf of Aden. Read the full article HERE!

 During the American Civil War, the Confederates deployed several small ships of war as commerce raiders, bent on damaging the Union’s trade routes. Since the Confederate government was not officially recognized by the United States government, these commerce raiders were seen as pirates by Union ships. Perhaps no raider is as famous as the CSS Alabama, a British-built sloop-of-war that terrorized Union shipping all over the world. In fact, First Mate Joshua P. Atkins from the T.B. Wales filed an insurance claim for his lost property when the CSS Alabama captured and burned his ship on November 8th 1863.   Read more