The Piracy Portal


The traditional "Jolly Roger" of piracy
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 civilizations. 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 authorizing 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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An early-18th century engraving of Vane
An early-18th century engraving of Vane

Charles Vane (c. 1680 – 29 March 1721) was an English pirate who operated in the Bahamas during the end of the Golden Age of Piracy.

Vane was likely born in the Kingdom of England around 1680. One of his first pirate ventures was under the leadership of Henry Jennings, during Jennings' attack on the salvage camp for the wrecked Spanish 1715 Treasure Fleet off the coast of Florida. By 1717, Vane was commanding his own vessels and was one of the leaders of the Republic of Pirates in Nassau. In 1718, Vane was captured but agreed to stop his criminal actions and declared his intention to accept a King's Pardon; however just months later he and his men, including Edward England and Jack Rackham, returned to piracy. Unlike some other notable pirate captains of the age like Benjamin Hornigold and Samuel Bellamy, Vane was known for his cruelty, often beating, torturing and killing sailors from ships he captured. In February 1719, Vane was caught in a storm in the Bay Islands and was marooned on an uncharted island. Upon being discovered by a passing British ship, he was arrested and brought to Port Royal where he was eventually tried and hanged in March 1721. (Full article...)
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Boca Teacapan from the Teacapan Estuary.
Boca Teacapan from the Teacapan Estuary.
The Battle of Boca Teacapan was the result of a United States Navy boat expedition to destroy a Mexican pirate ship which was attacking targets in the Pacific Ocean. United States sailors and marines in several small boats pursued the pirates to the Boca Teacapan, in Sinaloa and up the Teacapan Estuary for 42 mi (68 km) over several days before defeating them at their hideout. The battle ended with the destruction of the pirate ship. (Full article...)
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Did you know?

  • ... that U.S. district judge Loretta Preska has presided over criminal cases against a basketball coach, a computer hacker, a Somali pirate, and a Rikers Island guard?
  • ... that the developers of Serious Sam's Bogus Detour created a free version of the game to entice pirates to buy the original?
  • ... that the Casa Fuerte de Adeje was built in Tenerife in the 1550s to protect a sugar mill against pirates, but the complex was destroyed by fire in 1902 and has yet to be rebuilt?
  • ... that the opera The Devil and Daniel Webster features a jury of ghosts made up of famous historical American figures who are now residents of Hell; including the pirate Blackbeard?
  • ... that indigenous Australian artist Daniel Boyd has depicted colonial figures including Captain James Cook and Governor Arthur Phillip as pirates?
  • ... that the current Indonesian ambassador to Nigeria, Usra Hendra Harahap, personally led a rescue operation to free Indonesian crew members taken hostage by pirates in June 2020?
  • ... that in 2011, pirates were reported as raiding along the Danube River in the center of Europe?
  • ... 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 the Golden Age of Piracy, the word "pirate" was often spelled "pyrate" or "pyrat"?

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