A new website, Save Our Seaferers, set up by the world's key international shipping bodies, states
Over 800 seafarers are being held hostage by armed gangs of Somali pirates, in appalling conditions, subject to physical and psychological abuse, for up to 8 months. Their ships have been hijacked at sea and they are being held for ransoms of millions of dollars. The human cost to seafarers and their families is enormous.
The website has been set up to help us persuade governments to act more forcefully than they are presently doing against piracy. Wherever you live, you can sign an attached letter which will then be sent your own government.
The problem is actually worse than the website describes, as although initially the pirates rarely killed their seafarer hostages, they are now beginning to torture and kill seafarers in order to hold off counter-attacks and to extract higher and faster ransom payments (Lloyd's List article on 7th Feb 2011)
The only way to stop large-scale piracy is to do what was done in the C19th - declare piracy an international scourge and allow the world's legitimate forces to attack them if they are found at sea. In practice the UN should declare a no-sail area a stated distance off the coast of Somalia and destroy all non-IMO-registered craft found outside it - as well as all hijacked ships being used as motherships by pirates. This would allow fishing and local trade to continue but deny the pirates access to international waters.