You may think that piracy on the high seas is strictly the stuff of movies, museum exhibits, and tales of long-ago times. But—as an article in National Geographic's October 2007 issue makes clear—pirates remain a serious threat to shipping in the 21st century.
The Strait of Malacca and the waters surrounding Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are prime territory for pirates. Efforts by local authorities and a maritime crimereporting network have had little effect, and ships must proceed through the area on high alert, as if they're in a war zone.
Even giant container ships, with their imposing towers of steel boxes, aren't immune to attack. In a typical raid, armed pirates in high-speed boats draw up alongside a cargo ship, shimmy up the steep sides, attack and rob crewmembers (or worse), and then cut the containers' seals and steal the merchandise. Once back in their boats, they head to one of the thousands of jungle islands that dot the area.
The article, "Strait of Malacca: Dark Passage," is available online at www.ngm.com. Another excellent—and sobering—account of modernday piracy is William Langewiesche's 2004 book, The Outlaw Sea.
Now, how many of you just whipped out a copy of your marine insurance policy to check your coverage?