Maritime Piracy Attorneys

Representing Seamen Injured in Pirate Attacks

Though the term "pirate" may bring to mind an image of a drunken man carrying a cutlass with a parrot on his shoulder, the modern pirate is far more dangerous. Maritime piracy has existed for centuries and has only become more sophisticated, particularly in recent years. Modern-day pirate attacks may involve semi-automatic weapons and even rocket launchers used by organized gangs that approach the targeted vessel on a smaller boat to avoid detection. Crew members may be taken hostage and held for days or even months on end.

As a maritime worker, piracy is one of many dangers you may have to consider—in addition to the risks presented by physically demanding work, heavy machinery, and weather. Arnold & Itkin can provide helpful insight and skilled legal representation if you or a loved one has been injured in a pirate attack. As a seaman, you may be able to seek compensation under the Jones Act or other maritime law. This may cover medical expenses, lost wages, and various other expenses or losses that you have experienced as a result of the attack and your injuries.

Understanding Maritime Piracy

We built this website to offer helpful information and guidance to maritime workers throughout the United States, and those who have been injured in foreign waters. Pirate attacks typically occur overseas, and this can give an American seaman pause as to how to recover compensation under the Jones Act or other relevant maritime law.

Learn more about maritime piracy and your rights as a seaman by contacting a maritime lawyer at our firm for a free consultation, or review the following information:

  • Modern-Day Pirate Attacks    
    In 2022, there were 115 pirate attacks across the planet. Although the number of incidents decreased for 2 years in a row (from 132 attacks in 2021 and 195 attacks in 2020), the perpetrators nearly always board the targeted vessel. In 2022, 95% of pirate attacks were successful. These statistics show just how dangerous modern-day piracy can be.
  • High-Risk Areas for Maritime Piracy    
    Certain geographic locations are "hotspots" for maritime piracy. This includes the Gulf of Aden near Somalia, the Gulf of Guinea near Nigeria, the Indian subcontinent (specifically between Sri Lanka and India), and the Malacca Strait.
  • Best Practices: Avoiding Pirate Attacks    
    Employers and shipowners have an obligation to take necessary measures to deter and prevent pirate attacks. Anti-piracy patrols and naval deployments from various countries worldwide may help, but there are measures to be taken on the ship itself to make an attempted pirate attack unsuccessful or to avoid an attack in the first place.
  • Arnold & Itkin’s Experience with Maritime Piracy Claims     
    Our firm has experience with maritime piracy claims for American and foreign national seamen who were assaulted and kidnapped by pirates. We recognize the responsibility that shipowners and maritime employers have for keeping their crews safe, and we are committed to holding them accountable for their failures and oversights.

For a free, confidential consultation, contact our maritime piracy lawyers.

Modern-Day Pirate Attacks

Maritime piracy is a centuries-old practice that has occurred since maritime trade began. Piracy may be generally defined as an act of robbery or other crime of violence at sea. It is typically committed by passengers or crew from one ship against another, and the goal is typically financial or other personal gain. The earliest recorded incidents involving piracy involve the Sea Peoples who operated in the Aegean and Mediterranean in the 13th Century B.C.

Throughout the centuries, acts of piracy and the individuals who commit these crimes have become more organized. Modern-day piracy is significantly more sophisticated, involving semi-automatic weapons and clandestine operations that offer the pirates a greater chance at success against vessels that are prepared for pirate attacks. Pirates have been known to use RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and AK-47s, as well as other dangerous weapons. They may also use GPS systems, satellite phones, and radar to gain information about vessels, communicate with one another, and coordinate attacks.

Today, maritime piracy is a primary issue of concern for governments and maritime commerce companies worldwide. Through maritime law, naval operations, and international law, countries throughout the world are fighting a war on piracy. Self-protection is also important, as vessels can take specific measures to counter an attack.

Despite efforts by governments and individual corporations, piracy continues to occur today. According to 2022 maritime piracy statistics from the ICC Commercial Crime Services:

  • 115 pirate attacks were reported to the ICC.
  • 95% of these attacks were successful, with 105 boardings and 2 hijackings.
  • SE Asia alone experienced 58 pirate attacks, with 38 occurring in the Singapore Straits.
  • Nearly half of pirate attacks were against bulk carriers.

Nigerian Piracy

Pirate Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea

Until recent years, the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria, was a hotspot for maritime piracy. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported in 2012 that there were a staggering 966 seafarers attacked in West Africa. 206 lost their lives.

While Somali pirates were often former fishermen seeking better lives and would usually ransom their captives, Nigerian pirates exhibited a more violent approach, driven largely by the desire to siphon off the region's vast oil wealth. The Gulf of Guinea, rich in oil reserves, diamonds, gold, and fish, has been a lucrative target for these pirates. Nigeria's Delta oil reserves, constituting 80% of its federal government's annual revenue, became a magnet for pirate activities, reflecting societal issues like unemployment, government corruption, and economic disparity.

Despite the booming maritime trade, the region struggled with security. Pirates, believed to be aligned with transnational criminal organizations, displayed advanced knowledge of ship routes, cargo, and even insurance policies. Nigerian pirates typically held kidnapping victims for about ten days, contrasting with the longer detainments by Somali pirates.

Efforts by the maritime industry and governments to bolster security often fell short in the face of the escalating sophistication and audacity of the pirates. While Nigeria grappled with this menace, it acknowledged the challenges in comprehensively addressing the vast spectrum of maritime crimes in its waters. In recent years, however, the frequency of pirate attacks in this region has seen a decline, highlighting the transient nature of maritime piracy hotspots. In 2021, there were 6 pirate attacks reported in Nigeria. In 2020, no pirate attacks were reported in the region. Instead, the Singapore Straits had the highest number of maritime piracy attacks for two years straight.

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Best Practices: Avoiding Pirate Attacks

Deterring & Countering Maritime Piracy

Certain ship protection measures can be taken to reduce the risk of a piracy attack. If pirates are unable to board a ship, they cannot hijack it to steal its cargo, subject its crew to violence, or hold the vessel and crew hostage until a ransom is paid. Considering that the average length of a hijacking of a vessel and crew is seven months, it is absolutely crucial that specific measures be taken by ships to avoid, deter, and counter piracy attacks in the first place.

The following are some of the measures suggested by the ICC Commercial Crime Services:

  • Always be aware of high-risk areas for maritime piracy. This should be considered when planning a voyage and should also be considered while the voyage is underway.
  • Set up a proper lookout. This is particularly important when traveling through these areas. Radar may also be particularly effective in detecting pirates so they can be avoided.
  • Plan for crew safety. Crew safety should be a primary concern, including the location of a safe muster point in the event of an attack, as well as protection against gunfire during an attack.
  • Use a freeboard to create an obstacle. A large freeboard, typically greater than 8 meters, can make it more difficult for pirates to board the ship in the event of an attack.
  • Be ready to increase speed. Speed can enable a ship to outrun the pirates or make it more challenging for them to board the ship. Increasing to maximum safe speed or at least 18 knots is highly recommended.
  • Operate a ship in sea state 3. When the vessel is in this state, it may make it less likely that pirates will attack, as the smaller vessels they use are more difficult to operate even in moderate sea states.

There are some situations where shipowner or operator negligence may lead to a pirate attack. Whether insufficient safety measures were taken in planning the voyage or there was a lack of lookouts or preparation for countering a piracy attack, negligence can play a serious part in the damage involved in piracy attacks. 

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a pirate attack, you may have a claim under the Jones Act or maritime law. Thoroughly investigating pirate attacks and determining what ship protection measures, if any, were taken to protect the crew, may prove essential as our maritime piracy attorneys build a compelling case on your behalf. We represent seamen injured or killed in pirate attacks in foreign waters and are ready to assist you.

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Arnold & Itkin's Experience with Maritime Piracy Claims

Arnold & Itkin has experience representing those who have been victims of pirate attacks. In one case, we represented two American seamen who were badly beaten by pirates after their ship was run down. The two workers were employed by a Louisiana-based company, and despite continuous reports to the company regarding pirate threats and bad engine repairs, the company did not take any active measures to help their employees. 

In another case, two foreign seamen were kidnapped by pirates, taken to the shores of Africa, and held for ransom. During their captivity, they were badly beaten. They experienced a similar situation with their employers, who knew about the pending threats and danger and failed to act for the safety of their workers.

If you or someone you know has experienced a pirate attack off the shores of Nigeria, Somalia, or any other location in the world, you do not have to go without hope. In our past cases, our clients were victims of attacks because of the negligence on their company's behalf. Had their maritime employers enlisted all efforts to care for and protect their workers at sea, the attacks and beatings may have never occurred. If you would like to learn more about maritime piracy, or how to pursue a legal claim against your employer after an attack, reach out today. 

Contact us to learn how our maritime piracy lawyers can help. We handle maritime injury cases from coast to coast and represent seamen from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, as well as worldwide.

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