For the first time in about two-hundred years, an American ship was captured by pirates yesterday. The ship was the Maersk Alabama, a private vessel sailing under the U.S. flag, and the pirates are among the estimated one-thousand Somalis who make a living commandeering and ransoming vessels they encounter on the shipping routes along the Horn of Africa. Somali piracy has become such a problem these last few years that a combined task force including U.S. Navy vessels has been conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2006. The task force has forced the pirates to operate further from the coast, but obviously hasn’t succeeded in stopping them altogether. According to London’s Daily Telegraph, the pirates have hijacked seven ships just since March 1.
British and French ships have been targeted by the pirates, but the Maersk Alabama was the first American ship hijacked. Things apparently did not go well for the pirates; apparently the crew has retaken the vessel. Last I heard, the American captain is still being held hostage on a lifeboat. Something tells me this isn’t going to work out for the pirates.
Can you believe there are still fucking pirates out there sailing around? Of course, things are a little different these days compared to how they were back when Calico Jack flew the Jolly Roger. Modern pirates favor rocket-propelled grenades over cutlasses, and prefer burlap bags stuffed with $100 bills to chests of gold doubloons. The motivation is the same now as then, though: Somali pirates have collected hundreds of millions of dollars from their operations. In impoverished Somalia, a successful pirate can live like a king.
Like any pirates who wish to make a tidy profit, the Somali pirates aren’t picky. No ship is too big, or too small — Chinese fishing boats, Saudi oil tankers, and French private yachts have all been recent targets. Many pirates are Muslims, but that hasn’t stopped them from targeting ships sailing from Muslim countries. Hell, the Maersk Alabama was carrying food for the drought-starved people of — hey, look at hat — Somalia! No shit. For your absolute commitment to unvarnished avarice, my hat comes off to you, Somali pirates.
Though trying to take an American ship may turn out to have been a mistake. Afterall, they got kicked off the ship after a few hours. That can’t help their reputation. Although in the long-run a failed hijacking might work out better than a successful one would have. The United States has a history of taking things like that very badly.