With the disappearance of the Arctic Sea, has piracy returned?

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The disappearance of the Russian-crewed Arctic Sea, which last made radio contact in the Dover straits, has raised fears of the first significant case of piracy in Europe in living memory. According to some experts, piracy originated more than 2,000 years ago when sea robbers threatened the trading routes of ancient Greece, but in recent times it has been largely been confined to developing countries. The International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC) live piracy map illustrates how the Gulf of Aden has become a fruitful hunting ground for Somali pirates...

...The so-called golden age of piracy was from 1620 to 1720. The Mediterranean was stalked by Barbary pirates from north Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries. Many pirates became involved in the lucrative slave trade. A treaty outlawing privateering in the mid-19th century, patrols by British and Dutch warships and the bombardment of Algiers, destroying the power base of the Barbary pirates, significantly contributed to the decline of piracy. Another important factor was the advent of steam, which helped cargo ships leave pirates' vessels in their wake...

...In 1992, the ICC set up its Piracy Reporting Centre in response to attacks on ships in south-east Asia and the Caribbean. Political groups also hijacked ships, holding crews and passengers hostage.

The ICC has reported six incidents in the past 10 days, not including the disappearance of the Arctic Sea. Despite, or perhaps because of, the rarity of incidents such as that believed to have befallen the Arctic Sea, the death penalty for piracy with violence was only abolished in the UK in 1998.

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