In modern times, people in first world countries who are never out on the open seas consider pirates and the act of piracy with a flippant attitude or a with a sense of carelessness. Piracy is more of a thing of the past or an exciting story than it is a real-life occurrence. The truth is that TV shows and movies make pirates out to be romantic, fun-loving, do-good, slightly addled, or even just marginally mischievous people who aren’t any real threat to others. Most people think nothing more of piracy past that regarding the electronic thievery of music or videos. Real life pirates exist today…and they’re dangerous!
The image of pirates probably looks like the sword-wielding, buccaneer hat donning, rum-drinking, and womanizing sort. Present-day pirates are much different than their 17th-century counterparts. Contemporary pirates usually travel in smaller boats and vessels and tend to attack with powerful machine guns and grenades the tankers, cargo ships, and fishing vessels that typically to carry goods they could sell on the black market. Pirates tend to frequent specific areas, called choke points. The Panama Canal is a high traffic area for pirates due to the flow of cargo that passes through it between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Other choke points exist off the coastlines where there is much instability on the mainland, such as Liberia, Nigeria, and Somalia.
The History Channel ran a small segment about a modern day pirate attack on a cruise liner 100 miles off the coast of Somalia on November 5, 2005. Because cruiseliners have such a large number of eyewitnesses onboard between the passengers and the crew, they are not usually the targets of modern day pirates. This day, however, passengers awoke to gunshots from three boats filled with Somali pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-launched grenades. Thankfully, the cruise liner was able to use an LRAD device (long-range acoustic device), which puts out a powerful and obnoxious sound. The noise caused the pirates to cease, driving their boats away.
Some piracy encounters have fatal results for the victims. The Tebbutt Kidnapping in September 2011 occurred at a luxury resort on the Kenyan coastline. Judith and David Tebbutt were beginning a vacation on the luxury resort when armed pirates captured them from the resort. David died during the struggle and Judith was kept for about six months before her release. Some think her freedom was due to her family paying a ransom (yes, that still happens).
Not all pirates are out to collect items for profit on the black market. Some pirates are conservationists. Off the coast of Antarctica in 2013, a militant anti-whaling group named the Sea Shepherd rammed a Japanese whaling ship with their vessel Their goal was to sabotage the whaling ship and prevent any further whale harvesting. Even though they did not take booty from the boat, the act of sabotage militant force places this group in the ranks of modern-day pirates.