World Deals With 'Out-of-Control' Pirates

Vice Adm. Jane Campbell, the commander of the Combined Maritime Force, which includes the Fifth Fleet along with the United Kingdom, France and Spain, says that even though the maritime force has stepped up its anti-piracy efforts, including providing a traffic corridor for extra protection, the area is too large for it to be everywhere.

"We're talking about a water space of more than 1.1 million square miles," she told ABC News, pointing out that the maritime force does not have the vessels or the resources to devote to patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the entire Indian Ocean.

The Combined Maritime Force is recommending that shipping companies take security into their own hands, including hiring armed private guards to be onboard.

"If this were a company operating and maintaining a warehouse ashore and they had valuable products they were storing at that warehouse ? we wouldn't think twice about having a licensed security guard at that facility," Campbell said. "We think it's a decision that the shipping companies must make ? now at sea because the pirates are basically criminals at sea."

Many People Making Money Off Piracy

Choong says the high reward and lack of deterrence make pirating an attractive crime.

"In any criminal activity if the risk is low and the benefits are high, the activity will flourish," he said. "In Somalia it's a good occupation to become a pirate."

Piracy is turning out to be a profitable crime -- not only for the pirates, who are estimated to have made $30 million in ransoms this year, but for companies getting into the anti-piracy business as well.

Blackwater Worldwide, which made a name for itself providing security in Iraq, has outfitted a ship with a helicopter pad and a well-armed crew to escort ships through pirate-infested waters.

It says it has been contacted by 67 shipping and insurance companies, but no contracts have been signed.

Nick Davis, the head of the Britain-based Anti-Piracy Marine Security Solutions (Non-Lethal), told ABC News that business has picked up since the hijacking of the Sirius Star.

"We've increased inquiries in the last 72 hours," he said. "It is a very, very busy time."

Davis warns that the increased attacks and media attention may spawn copycat piracy in other poor coastal areas around the world.

"As the world financial crisis deepens, the Gulf of Aden could be seen as a trend setter for other poor areas," Davis said. "People see the relentless and relative ease the pirates seem to be able to do this, and the ransom money they are making."

It's the highly secretive negotiations for that ransom money where the biggest pay-off in piracy resides.

The British think tank Chatham House estimates that shipping companies can pay up to $2 million in ransom per ship.

For the MV Faina, the Ukrainian ship captured in September carrying tanks, weapons and ammunition, the pirates have reportedly asked for anywhere from $8 million to $35 million in ransom.

Vela International won't comment on the ongoing negotiations with the pirates over the fate of the Sirius Star, which was carrying a quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output of oil when it was hijacked.

Vela issued a statement saying only that, "all 25 crew members onboard are believed to be safe," and that the company is "awaiting further contact from the pirates in control of the vessel."

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