Pirates are criminals that take to the seas and pillage goods from other ships. Pirates are not just people in movies or history. Piracy is alive and well. Off the coast of Somalia, piracy has become big business for Somali warlords who have spread themselves across thousands of square miles of water, from the Gulf of Aden at the narrow doorway to the Red Sea, to the Kenyan border along the Indian Ocean.
Initially the pirates used fast-moving skiffs to pull alongside their prey and board with ladders or sometimes rusty grappling hooks. On deck, they hold the crew for ransom, usually $1 million to $2 million. With the many ransoms that have been paid, they have been able to get their hands on sophisticated electronics, heavy weapons, large oceangoing boats and speedier attack craft and can operate far from land for weeks at a time.
Warships from the European Union, the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India have been patrolling these dangerous waters but the pirates remain as elusive as ever. They have moved their focus to the southern and eastern coasts of Somalia where military patrols are virtually nonexistent. As one pirate said, "his gang would continue hunting ships because that's our business."