Feature - Rough waters: fighting modern-day pirates with technology
Map of reported pirate incidents in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. (Click for large, high-resolution version.) Image above courtesy of UNOSAT; image on front page courtesy of sxc.hu
In the past year, maritime shipping has suffered a resurgence of piracy, at a level that the world has not seen since the early 18th century. Sailors working off the Horn of Africa have been particularly hard hit: last year, records show that 125 ships were attacked and 45 seized.
Real numbers are likely much higher, as piracy is believed to be widely under-reported. One of the world's busiest shipping lanes, about 20,000 ships annually pass through the Gulf of Aden on their way to and from the Suez Canal — carrying a tenth of world trade.
Unlike the popular image of pirates seen in movies and books, modern pirates are more likely to wield machine guns than muskets; and the crime remains as difficult to fight as it ever