The key point to note about this is that the two main areas of threat activity are drugs and white collar crime.

Types of Piracy :

Small scale – opportunist raiders only interested in what they can steal on board. The crew are often left alone or cast off in one of the ships boats. The ship itself may be stolen or set adrift.

Organised piracy – Prearranged stealing of cargoes and or ships; stealing of ships to order. Repainting flagging; using pirated ships to steal cargo.


First we need to understand a typical example of the structure of an organised crime syndicate. This is not universal but typical. The direction of the gang comes from the Elite group, they design the strategy. Their mission is to make as much money as possible, and to that end certain elements of maritime piracy are desirable. 

If the working unit, the thieves, burglars, prostitutes and others begin to freelance then they would soon attract unwelcome attention from upstairs. An example is the lack of organised or big picture piracy with Russian and other post Soviet fleets. They could be a soft target, but are not. There are several reasons:

There is an agreement between the Russian mafia (centred in Vladivostoh) with the Yakuza, to use shipping between Russia and Japan for day to day criminal purposes. Russia to Japan; guns and drugs. Japan to Russia; grand scale car theft.

Moscow ultimately controls the crime picture and the working units world not wish to cross them. There is constant low level piracy which is conducted on an opportunistic basic which was the blessing of the Elite groups "the bosses", as long as it doesn’t interfere in the big picture. This are is the domain of freelancers and corrupt junior officials. It is dangerous but in the overall picture is an irritant.

A greater threat to ship owners lies in the big picture in four areas:

The Phantom Ship:

Pirates look for a commodity seller or shipping agent with a letter of credit that has almost expired (this happens regularly since the demand for shipping space exceeds that which is available). Pirates then offer the services of their ship (which is often stolen renamed etc. before being used in this manner). A temporary registration certificate is then acquired through a registration office at a consulate. To get this involves a corrupt official who can be bribed together with the use of fake documentation. This certificate provides the ship with an official new identity. The ship is loaded and the shipper receives his bit of lading. The pirates then sail to a different port then the one named as the destination on the bill of lading. There they unload the cargo to a partner or an unsuspecting buyer, and change the temporary registration certificate again.

The Re-flagging Scam

Use of corrupt officials together with organised crime to take control of shipping companies and/or individual ships. An example was; Tengo left Indonesia bound for South Korea with £2 million cargo of aluminium ingots. The vessel next surfaced in China with a different name and different crew. The original crew was presumed killed. The Japanese owners bought her back.

Oil Piracy
An increasing fraud of stealing oil cargoes to order. Organised crime syndicates working with corrupt officials and probably corrupt end users.

Underworld Index AfroLineal Colombians Cubans
Dominicans Italian Mafia Jamaican Posse Mexican Mafia
Outlaw Bikers Piracy Russian Mafia Street Gangs
Terrorists Triads and Tong Vietnamese Yakuza