Portal:Piracy

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The Piracy Portal

Introduction

The traditional "Jolly Roger" of piracy.

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable items or properties. Those who engage in acts of piracy are called pirates. The earliest documented instances of piracy were in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. Narrow channels which funnel shipping into predictable routes have long created opportunities for piracy, as well as for privateering and commerce raiding. Historic examples include the waters of Gibraltar, the Strait of Malacca, Madagascar, the Gulf of Aden, and the English Channel, whose geographic structures facilitated pirate attacks. A land-based parallel is the ambushing of travelers by bandits and brigands in highways and mountain passes. Privateering uses similar methods to piracy, but the captain acts under orders of the state authorizing the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation, making it a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors.

While the term can include acts committed in the air, on land (especially across national borders or in connection with taking over and robbing a car or train), or in other major bodies of water or on a shore, in cyberspace, as well as the fictional possibility of space piracy, this article focuses on maritime piracy. It does not normally include crimes committed against people traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator (e.g. one passenger stealing from others on the same vessel). Piracy or pirating is the name of a specific crime under customary international law and also the name of a number of crimes under the municipal law of a number of states. In the early 21st century, seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue (with estimated worldwide losses of US$16 billion per year in 2004), particularly in the waters between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore.

Today, pirates armed with automatic weapons, such as assault rifles, and machine guns, grenades and rocket propelled grenades use small motorboats to attack and board ships, a tactic that takes advantage of the small number of crew members on modern cargo vessels and transport ships. They also use larger vessels, known as "mother ships", to supply the smaller motorboats. The international community is facing many challenges in bringing modern pirates to justice, as these attacks often occur in international waters. Some nations have used their naval forces to protect private ships from pirate attacks and to pursue pirates, and some private vessels use armed security guards, high-pressure water cannons, or sound cannons to repel boarders, and use radar to avoid potential threats.


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Monument to Roberto Cofresi in Cabo Rojo
Roberto Cofresí (June 17, 1791 – March 29, 1825), better known as "El Pirata Cofresí", is the most renowned pirate in Puerto Rico. He became interested in sailing at a young age. By the time he reached adulthood there were some political and economic difficulties in Puerto Rico, which at the time was a colony of Spain. Influenced by this situation he decided to become a pirate in 1818. Cofresí commanded several assaults against cargo vessels focusing on those that were responsible for exporting gold. During this time he focused his attention on ships from the United States and the local Spanish government ignored several of these actions. On March 5, 1825, Cofresí engaged a float of ships led by John Slout in battle. He eventually abandoned his ship and tried to escape by land before being captured. After being imprisoned he was sent to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where a brief military trial found him guilty and on March 29, 1825, he and other members of his crew where executed by a firing squad. After his death his life was used as inspiration for several stories and myths, which served as the basis for books and other media.

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Tortuga Island NASA.jpg

Tortuga (Île de la Tortue in French) is a Caribbean island that forms part of Haiti, off the northwest coast of Hispaniola. Tortuga was discovered by Europeans in 1493, during the first voyage of Christopher Columbus into the New World. Columbus' sailors called it Tortuga ("Turtle") because its humped shape resembled a turtle.

By 1640, the buccaneers of Tortuga were calling themselves the Brethren of the Coast. The pirate population was mostly made up of French and Englishmen, along with a small number of Dutchmen. By the year 1670, as the buccaneer era was in decline, many of the pirates, seeking a new source of trade, turned to log cutting and trading wood from the island. At this time, however, a Welsh pirate named Henry Morgan started to promote himself and invite the pirates on the island of Tortuga to set sail under him. They were hired by the French as a striking force that allowed France to have a much stronger hold on the Caribbean region. Consequently, the pirates were never really controlled, and kept Tortuga as a neutral hideout for pirate booty. (more...)

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Did you know...

Piratey, vector version.svg
  • ...that English pirate Henry Every, who was sometimes known as Long Ben, was one of the few major pirate captains to retire with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle?
  • ...that red Jolly Roger flags were the most feared of all; all prayed they never encountered the "Bloody Red," which boldly declared that no mercy would be shown and all victims would be killed?
  • ...that, while it is unknown if pirates actually kept parrots as pets, it is thought that at least some captains kept cats aboard to keep populations of rats and other vermin down?
  • ...that, unlike traditional Western societies of the time, many pirate clans operated as limited democracies, demanding the right to elect and replace their leaders?

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