Small wooden skiffs with armed barefooted pirates have come to symbolize a huge asymmetric threat to maritime commerce. But a year ago, Navy snipers aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) killed three of four pirates holding Maersk Alabama Captain Richard Phillips in the container ship's lifeboat. Those "shots heard 'round the world" served notice to pirates that the U.S. Navy was serious about stopping attacks on merchant shipping traffic near Somalia.
So what has happened since then? For one thing, the naval presence in the region has grown in size and sophistication. And now some merchant ships—like the Maersk Alabama—carry armed security personnel when passing through those waters. But has that stopped attacks?
According to a report by the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB):