Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Piracy at sea has been a threat which has plagued the mariner since the earliest trading vessels took to the sea more than two thousand years ago. to those outside of the maritime community, the notion of piracy likely conjures up visions of Captain Kidd and Blackbeard, the sort of lifestyle, popularized in the Errol Flynn movies of the 1930x, which has long since passed into history. In reality, violence and robbery at sea is alive and well in certain geographic locations around the globe. In the past decade, the problem of pirate attack upon merchant vessels has become especially acute in the Singapore Strait, one of the world's most important commercial and strategic waterways. Today's conventional international law of piracy provides for universal jurisdiction over piracy which occurs on the "high seas." The conventional law of piracy is largely the product of customary and municipal concepts of the crime, jurisdiction, and international political and economic notions. New concepts such as the introduction of the Exclusive Economic Zone, expanded territorial seas, and archipelagic waters, have effectively reduced the areal extent of the "high seas," and consequently, have rendered the existing conventional law of piracy inadequate to respond to most of the piratic activity which is occurring in the world today. This paper examines the development of the international law of piracy, and the effect that contemporary notions of the law of the sea and international relations have on the existing conventional law. The terrorist attack on the cruise ship Achille Lauro is cited as an example of the shortcomings of the existing conventional law's definition of the offense of piracy in the modern age. The present situation in the Singapore Strait is cited as an example of how contemporary notions of littoral state sovereignty militate against an effective international response to "traditional" piratic activity occurring in an international strait. Recommendations for improving the international community's ability to address the problems posed by contemporary piracy and maritime terrorism are offerred.