Many years have passed since John Paul Jones attacked merchant shipping along the English coast and Blackbeard terrorized the Caribbean. Yet, although letters of marque and the Jolly Roger have been relegated to history, piracy on the high seas not only is alive and well but also is flourishing.
Pirates today—much like their infamous predecessors—are rogue bands of criminals who, with a few notable exceptions, generally are unorganized. This lack of a cohesive structure, however, should not be mistaken for incompetence. In fact, there is evidence that many recent victims were not simply targets of opportunity (although that still is the most popular method). A growing number of incidents seem to be the result of the monitoring of the routes and cargoes of specific vessels, including bulk carriers, general cargo ships, tankers, and private motorcraft.
Attacks on vessels and crew are becoming more frequent, better coordinated, and more violent. In 1999, piracy constitutes a new and legitimate threat to shipping worldwide.