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The UN Security Council Addresses Piracy

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.

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

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.

From Thomas B. Hunter’s “The Growing Threat of Modern Piracy,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 125 no. 1 (July 1999), 72-74. From The Mariners’ Museum Library Collection.

For the past few months, this blog has dedicated itself to the discussion of piracy not only in the modern world, but also in our cultural memory and consciousness. Too often the public remembers pirates as the swashbuckling adventurers of legend, when the reality of piracy is one of violence, fear and heavy economic costs. Piracy still costs the maritime industry a staggering $6.6 billion per year, and only 20% of that is absorbed by national governments. The rest comes out of the pocket of the maritime companies themselves, leading to higher prices on any commodity shipped over the ocean. Pirates still held hostage some 224 people as of September 2012, and some hostages have been brutally tortured and murdered to put pressure on shipping companies to pay their ransom (source HERE.) Make no mistake – the pirates of today, like the real life pirates in the days of Blackbeard, are not the hollywood adventurers of legend. While fictional pirates may serve as a popular form of entertainment, one must remember that in real life they were criminals who murdered innocent people and stole their ships and cargo: I doubt anyone would root for Jack Sparrow if they saw him do that.

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