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article imageViolence and lawlessness on high seas: New York Times report

By Caroline Leopold     Jul 19, 2015 in World
Lawless behavior — including murder, violence and hiding stoways — are common occurrences on the high seas says The New York Times on Friday, in the first part of an investigative series.
The Dona Liberta, a refrigerated cargo vessel, traveled the African and European coastlines and committed crimes along the way, according to The New York Times in its investigative Outlaw Ocean series.
The first part of the investigation, published Friday, documents the ship's activity from 2011 to 2014. The Dona Liberta is a notorious example of crime, violence and lawlessness on the high seas.
Despite the world economy depending on millions of fishing and cargo vessels and 100,000 large commercial ships, maritime law enforcement is barely better than centuries ago.
Piracy offers an opportunity to make a lot of money quickly by stealing cargo and fuel. Generally, there is very little law enforcement, so ships take protection into their own hands. Sailors defend their ships as if they were medieval castles while pirates try to penetrate defense.
Mark Young, a retired United States Coast Guard commander described maritime law enforcement to the New York Times: “Like the Wild West. Weak rules, few sheriffs, lots of outlaws.”
According to private security company Dryad Maritime, there were 345 acts of piracy in the world in 2014 where ships where attempts to take over ships and kidnap workers.
Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) has been tracking piracy in Asia, which has become a growing concern. The group reported 106 incidents in Indonesian waters, ranging from petty crime to ship hijacking and fuel siphoning.
The New York Times reports much larger crime figures representing a broader brush of crimes. Thousands of fishermen and seamen die under mysterious circumstances each year. Crimes like murder are common offshore, according to maritime officials, but reporting of such offenses is not required. Another 2,000 to 6,000 die in unsafe vessels.
Through debt or force, tens of thousands of people, including children, are enslaved on boats every year and rarely does law enforcement intervene.
Illegal dumping of polluting substances was also described in the New York Times report.
Perhaps the most well known outlaws of the ocean are pirates from off the coast of Somalia. While Somali piracy may be the most known safety threat on the seas, activity has been in decline recently.
More about dona liberta, sea pirates, Somali pirates