What we know about piracy

For the full report, click here

What We Know About Piracy is the outcome of a collaboration between SafeSeas and the Stable Seas programme of the One Earth Future Foundation. Authored by Lydelle Joubert (Stable Seas), the report provides a comprehensive overview of the data available on piracy, drawing on desk-based research conducted between June 2019 and March 2020.

Transnational organized crime at sea manifests in multiple forms of illicit activity. One such form of crime is maritime piracy and armed robbery of ships. Information on piracy has been systematically collected since the 1980s when the International Maritime Organization and the International Chamber of Commerce started to compile such data. With the increase in piracy incidents in different maritime regions since the 1990s, the number of actors collecting data and analyzing these incidents has grown substantially. Data and analysis are now available from piracy reporting centers, international and regional organizations, naval services, the shipping industry, and the maritime media, as well as a wider expert community.


This paper provides the first systematic overview of how data on piracy and armed robbery is collected and what different kinds of information on piracy are available. The paper addresses how different organizations define, categorize, quantify, and analyze piracy. What common themes and issues can we identify? Who collects data and how? How accessible is the data? Where do we lack data? What are the blind spots? First, providing this overview is important in order to get a better understanding of what the gaps in the data on piracy are. Second, it also allows stakeholders to identify divergences in data analysis and to better understand the reasons there are potentially conflicting numbers and trends. In addition, such an overview constitutes a first step towards better harmonizing data to inform responses to piracy and strengthening overall analytical capabilities for maritime security.

The paper starts with a systematic overview of the kinds of organizations that collect and analyze piracy data. It shows that the number of actors involved in collecting piracy data is quite substantial. The paper identifies six public entities collecting global piracy data and eight entities collecting region-specific data, as well as three additional non-governmental organizations and networks. In so doing, it documents the initial scale of data collection and analysis. In the next step, the paper investigates the flow of information and the kind of data points collected by these different organizations. Quite substantial divergences come to the fore. The next section evaluates the quality of the data to provide insights on the character, shape, and organizational structures of contemporary piracy. The concluding section then turns to the gaps in our understanding of piracy that the available data leaves.

For the full report, click here

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Posted by Lydelle Joubert

Lydelle Joubert joined Stable Seas in November 2018. She is an expert on global piracy and counter-piracy efforts and also contributes research on trafficking in illicit goods, transnational organized crime, African maritime security, and maritime domain awareness. Lydelle brings first-hand experience in the private security sector and the South African military. She holds an MA in International Relations, Honores in International Politics, and a BA in Political Sciences from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

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