Even as early as the Roman era, maritime piracy has demanded the attention of states and posed a serious threat to commerce, travel and security across the globe. In 2011, 439 reported pirate attacks around the world cost an estimated $7-12 billion. Emerging trends of similarly astronomical numbers have captured the attention of world leaders in recent years, leading to a resurgence of concern regarding this ancient criminal act.
Until the late 2000’s piracy had flown under the public radar but nonetheless persisted at small but steady rates in the seas of Southeast Asia prior to the development of reliable records on pirate activity. By the 1980s the rising threat of piracy had warranted enough consideration to spark implementation of anti-piracy policies, notably the creation of the International Maritime Bureau and the UN Law of the Sea Convention. These strategies were initially deemed successful in steadily reducing the total number of pirate attacks reported annually. However the dramas of modern piracy returned to prominence in 2007 when attacks around Africa surpassed those in Asian waters for the first time on record. This distinct leap was due primarily to the efforts of Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, where through 2009 attacks accounted for 46% of the 322 events reported globally. This record year was indicative of foundational shifts in maritime piracy resulting in fewer attacks worldwide, but a drastic surge in activity emanating from Somalia with grim economic consequences.
While more than 20,000 ships containing some 12% of the worlds transported petroleum pass through the Gulf of Aden annually, the general breakdown of rule of law and fragility of parts of the Somali state make these waters a haven for maritime pirates . In 2007, a particularly turbulent regime shift further exacerbated Somalia’s failing stability by ousting the Islamic Courts Union in favor of the Transitional Federal Government. This threw the country into chaos and created an environment conducive to pirate activity by igniting civil unrest as well as by replacing the heavy-handed treatment of piracy by the ICU with an ineffective new government. To further enrich the prospects of sea-borne thieves, a barbaric civil war and the inability of the TFG to manage a mounting list of crises led to a massive influx of international aid in 2008. Some 95% of international aid supplies to Somalia is shipped by sea. These supplies and an estimated 3.2 million Somalis, approximately 43% of the population, were dependent on food aid in the latter part of2008.
The direct economic costs of Somali piracy, while difficult to assess reliably, affect both their targets and hosts in a multitude of ways. Most noticeably, the average costs of recovering hostages of Somali pirates skyrocketed from $150,000 in 2005 to $4.97 million in 2010. This trend imitated the rise in the complexity and audacity of pirate organizations as they pursued bigger vessels farther from their home shores. Other major contributors to the rising cost of maritime piracy include; loss of cargo, rising insurance rates for transport vessels, the costs of heightening naval and police presence, and the costs of re-routing ships to avoid dangerous waters. Piracy greatly impedes the flow of goods by sea, which constitutes more than 80% of world trade, and aggravates preexisting conditions of instability in a host nation. Foreign trade and investment are significantly deterred by pirate activity and the hijacking of humanitarian vessels makes foreign aid hesitant in returning. In sum these direct costs are estimated to be more than $10 billion annually and represent a significant threat to interstate trade and transport as well as domestic stability.
In two decades since its international resurgence in the 1990’s, the scale of maritime piracy has shrunk globally, while its resurgence in Eastern Africa has caused it to realize greater destructive influence. Along Somalia’s coasts, the relatively few pirate gangs that existed prior to the new millennium accounted for only 5% of the total global incidents in 2000. By 2009, the waters were home to a multitude of gangs whose global share exceeded 50%. The expansion of the territory Somali pirates prey upon has already created consequences for neighboring states like Kenya through a marked reduction in foreign investment and tourism in the entire region.
al., A. B. e. (2010, December 2010). "The Economic Costs of Maritime Piracy." from http://oneearthfuture.org/images/imagefiles/Cost%20of%20Piracy%20Final%20Report.pdf.
Chalk, P. (2010). "Piracy off the Horn of Africa: Scope, Dimensions, Causes and Responses." Brown Journal of World Affairs 16(2): 89-108.
Moki, J. N. A. a. S. (2009). "Africa: The Piracy Hot Spot and Its Implications for Global Security." Mediterranean Quarterly 20(3): 95-121.
Section, S. a. T. A. (2010). The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment. Vienna, United Nations office on Drugs and Crime: 193-200.
 al., A. B. e. (2010, December 2010). "The Economic Costs of Maritime Piracy." from http://oneearthfuture.org/images/imagefiles/Cost%20of%20Piracy%20Final%20Report.pdf.
 Moki, J. N. A. a. S. (2009). "Africa: The Piracy Hot Spot and Its Implications for Global Security." Mediterranean Quarterly 20(3): 95-121.
I found this article useful in contextualizing the phenomena of African piracy in both history and current debates.
 Chalk, P. (2010). "Piracy off the Horn of Africa: Scope, Dimensions, Causes and Responses." Brown Journal of World Affairs 16(2): 89-108.
 Section, S. a. T. A. (2010). The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment. Vienna, United Nations office on Drugs and Crime: 193-200.
This report from the UN was an excellent start to my research by presenting me with both statistical data and concise explanations of many key themes surrounding piracy.