Maritime piracy

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of attacks on vessels by pirates, in particular in the Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and the Indian Ocean. Vast areas of waters are affected making it a challenge to prevent maritime piracy incidents.

Maritime piracy affects major shipping lanes, and puts at risk the lives of seafarers and merchant seamen from all over the world, of whom hundreds are taken captive each year.

Millions of dollars in ransom payments are paid to pirates. It is believed that these payments are divided between the pirates, their leaders and those who finance them. Intelligence indicates that part of the money is reinvested abroad through Somali emigrants.

Tracing the financial flows of ransom money is one of the main challenges faced by law enforcement agencies. Read more about Pirate Trails.

INTERPOL's response

The INTERPOL Maritime Piracy Task Force focuses on three main areas to counter maritime piracy, working closely with the international community:

Improving evidence collection

The maritime environment poses unique difficulties for collecting evidence. We provide advice, training and equipment to our member countries worldwide in order to improve the quality and quantity of data collected, and to make sure it is properly preserved and analysed.

With the creation of a Global Database on Maritime Piracy currently in progress, INTERPOL will be soon in the position to better analyse piracy networks. This will enable us to help our member countries identify and arrest high-value individuals involved in Somali maritime piracy – such as piracy leaders and financiers – and to identify their assets.

Facilitating data exchange

A single piracy case will often affect several different nations. Vessels may be flagged, owned and operated by different countries and manned by multinational crews. The pirates, the navy which captures them and the nation willing to investigate and prosecute the case are also likely to be diverse. This makes it crucial to share information between military, law enforcement and judicial bodies in multiple countries.

Our secure global police communications system, known as I-24/7, and our system of Notices are key to the sharing of data and the detention of suspected pirates.

Building regional capabilities

The majority of prosecutions for maritime piracy are conducted in African or Asian countries. We are working to develop the capabilities of police investigation units on a regional level. By providing specialized training and equipment prior to trial we can increase the likelihood of successful prosecutions in the future.

Working in partnership

Due to the extent and nature of maritime piracy, international and cross-sector partnerships are vital in order to prevent, investigate and prosecute these crimes. We work with the following international organizations. 

 In addition, we work closely with various military organizations and companies in the private sector.

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