U.S. Navy and Coast Guard officials are determined to stop pirates from threatening Americans and American interests. Incidents of piracy have become even more prevalent over the last two years, especially off the coast of Somalia and in the South China Sea.
In 2004, 330 incidents of piracy were recorded worldwide, of which almost 180 took place in the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy conducts maritime security operations in various parts of the world and, most recently, captured a suspected pirate vessel in the Indian Ocean about 54 miles off the coast of Somalia and detained 10 alleged pirates Jan. 21.
Several other incidents of piracy aimed at international shipping off the Somali coast have been reported over the past year, including an attack on a Western cruise ship in November and a Jan. 22 incident in which pirates reportedly fired on a commercial cargo ship before hijacking the vessel. Pirates have even hijacked humanitarian aid vessels, such as a ship loaded with foodstuff headed to Somalia under the auspices of the U.N. World Food Program.
Even though acts of piracy are not common in American waters, the U.S. Coast Guard aims to prevent them from becoming so. Aside from combating drug trafficking and protecting U.S. ports and marine transportation system from terrorism, Coast Guard officials emphasize the importance of stopping the spread of piracy into American waters to protect U.S. citizens and the flow of commerce.