The resolution of the Sirius Star hijacking took an interesting turn. You could argue that it was pirates that single-handedly coined the phrase, “Crime doesn’t pay,” considering how many taking up the sweet trade that we know of met an untimely end. Then again, this time around we may know how true that statement is for pirates.
Consider the following: The big difference between the Modern Age of Piracy and the last few pirate outbreaks is the presence of the modern media structure. One thing the Barbary pirates, Blackbeard, Henry Morgan and the rest never had to consider was how their actions would play on cable news or the blogosphere. By contrast, the Somalis have spokesmen (spokespirates?) who are the go-to people when AP and other news organizations need a quote for deadline.
This could be an educational experience for those who ask, just how dangerous is being a pirate on a statistical level. Remember, that most of what we know about pirates from three hundred years ago were from the ones whose cases were heard by the Admiralty. Having an independent source to tell us their story, we’d hear from those that did get away with it. More importantly, we’d get a sense of how many got away with it, and from that get a much better sense of the overall risks to those going on the account.
Furthermore, consider the overall benefits of this knowledge. In general, by knowing the odds for success, it helps when approaching the situation, and how effective an action in response is. And with real time statistics, a response to the environment could be modified quickly.
And if you’re horrified at the idea of piracy being reduced to a pile of statistics and numbers, remember that the sweet trade is in essence a business. Pirates throughout history always kept an eye on the bottom line, even if it was only as a validation of whatever other goals drew them to the sea.
And for all we know, the Somalis not only have spokespirates, but someone on shore with one really big Excel workbook tracking profit-to-loss ratios for every ship seized, a modern Meyer Lansky in their employ. And if you thought Blackbeard could have benefited from a PR flack, imagine if he’d had one of theme…