Centuries after Blackbeard and his ilk passed into legend, piracy has once again become a major problem with a global impact. Operating off the Somali coast, modern day pirates have become a threat to regional stability, world trade and all forms of maritime transport. As long as the political situation in Somalia remains unstable, it is unlikely that the situation will improve. The EP adopted a resolution on how to tackle the challenge during the Brussels plenary on 10 May.
The scale of the problem
In 2011 pirates hijacked 28 ships, kidnapped 470 seafarers and killed 15. Currently at least seven ships are being held for ransom and about 191 seafarers as hostages in Somalia.
What has already been done
To fight the piracy problem, the EU decided the launch the European Naval Force Somalia - Operation ATALANTA in December 2008. The Council extended the operation - and the operational area - until the end of 2014.
What the European Parliament resolution is asking for
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 10 May to call for the release of hostages and hijacked vessels and to state that:
Pirates should be caught and prosecuted.
Maritime and judicial capabilities and the training of the regional coastal police force and judges should be improved.
EU member states together with international police forces should better trace and confiscate the paid ransom (to prevent them from ending up funding the problem and making it worse).
Member states should provide the ATALANTA operation with more material assistance and naval vessels so that the operation can be successful. (Currently, the fleet has only 2-3 vessels compared to 8 at the end of 2011 and 35 in 2009.)
More humanitarian assistance is needed to solve the situation on shore.
More than 80% of world trade is carried out by maritime transport.
The pirates operate in an area with many major shipping routes - such as to and from the Suez Canal.
The pirates' operating radius has expanded over the years due to them using larger hijacked ships known as "motherships".
Every year 10,000 European ships sail through the dangerous areas.