Pirate havens are ports or harbors that are a safe place for pirates to repair their vessels, resupply, recruit, spend their plunder, avoid capture, and/or lie in wait for merchant ships to pass by. The areas have governments that are unable or unwilling to enforce maritime laws. This creates favorable conditions for piracy.

These havens were often near maritime shipping lanes. Although some havens were merely hidden coves, some were established by governments who employed privateers to disrupt the overseas trade of rival nations.

Some historic pirate havens included Barataria Bay, Port Royal, and Tortuga. These provided some autonomy for privateers and buccaneers.

Barbary Coast

Historically, the Barbary Coast contained a number of pirate havens, notably Salé, Algiers and Tunis. These pirate havens were used by corsairs from the 16th to the 19th century. The pirates, dubbed "Barbary Pirates", ravaged European shipping and enslaved thousands of captives. The Pirate Republic of Salé, in 17th century Morocco, was a micronation with its own seaport argot known as "Franco," since like other pirate states, it from time to time made treaties with European governments, agreeing not to attack their fleets.

Mehdya (La Mamora) in Morocco was a pirate haven in the early 17th century.[1] Another notable base for Barbary corsairs was Ghar al Milh (Porto Farina) in Tunisia.

The United States Navy was founded, in part, to counter the activities of the Barbary pirates, and the United States fought the First and Second Barbary Wars (1801–1805, 1815) to end this threat to its shipping.


In the early 17th century in Munster (Ireland's southernmost province), Leamcon (near Schull[2]) was a pirate stronghold, while pirates traded easily in nearby Baltimore and Whiddy Island.[3] Munster's coast provided favorable geography in the form of harbors, bays, islands, anchorages and headlands, while the province's remoteness made it difficult to control from London or Dublin.[4] Literate pirates in Ireland could, till 1613, escape secular trial (making their prosecution much more difficult) by pleading "benefit of clergy".[5] The coast of Munster complemented Mehdya as a base for piracy since, during summers, Mehdya became less safe as the calmer waters favored the galleys used to suppress piracy.[4]


One of the earliest rumored places where pirates collected was on the island of Madagascar, off the East coast of Africa. This was their base of operations for their pecking of the Mughal Empire. Here they could prey on the successes of the East India Companies while being a world away from any authority. These are the same outlaws that were plundering the West Indies. The English pirate Henry Every plundered a Mughal ship, gaining immense wealth.[6]: 49  Every was said to have settled on Madagascar and was never heard from again, though it was rumored he retired in Ireland. Some writers speculate that this event put in motion a series of events that would help lead to the multitude of laws passed for decades to come.[7]: 202–215 

Madagascan pirate havens included Fort-Dauphin, the town of Saint Augustin and the Île Sainte-Marie.

Somali Coast

In the early 2000s, piracy off the coast of Somalia became commonplace. During this period, pirate havens included Eyl, in the Puntland region of northern Somalia, and Harardhere (Xarard-heere), in the Mudug province of Somalia. During this same time period, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia was believed to be unable to enforce maritime laws.[8] Other modern havens included Garaad and Hobyo in central Somalia.[9]

List of examples



Pirate utopias

Main article: Pirate utopia

The American anarchist Peter Lamborn Wilson identified pirate societies as being spaces temporarily outside of the control of states, and consequently proto-anarchist societies. This forms part of his thesis of Temporary Autonomous Zones, spaces or polities in which anarchist conceptions of freedom were briefly enacted during various historical periods.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Senior 1976, pp. 29, 40, 50, 53, 73, 76–77, 145.
  2. ^ Senior 1976, pp. 41, 68.
  3. ^ Senior 1976, pp. 54–57.
  4. ^ a b Senior 1976, pp. 53–54.
  5. ^ Senior 1976, p. 54.
  6. ^ Daniel Defoe, A general history of the pyrates (Mineola N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1999).
  7. ^ Bradley Nutting, "The Madagascar Connection: Parliament and Piracy, 1690–1701". The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 22, No. 3 (July 1978).
  8. ^ Mazzetti, Mark; Otterman, Sharon (2009-04-09). "U.S. Captain is Hostage of Pirates; Navy Ship Arrives". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  9. ^ http://www.tiede.fi, the Finnish science magazine Tiede, no 5/2011
  10. ^ Rogozinski, Jan (1999). Dictionary of Pirates. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. pp. 85–87. ISBN 1-85326-384-2.
  11. ^ Wilson, Peter (2003). Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes. Autonomedia. ISBN 1-57027-158-5.