Authorities have discovered the body of a Somali pirate who drowned after receiving his share of a ransom to release a Saudi oil tanker. His is one of five pirates who reportedly drowned after leaving the boat when $3 million was dropped by parachute on to the vessel
The five pirates drowned when their small boat capsized in rough weather. Three survived — without their loot.
The scene created the classic dilemma of having to part with the heavy money or die with it.
The airdrop concerned many around the world who oppose the standard practice of paying Somali pirates. The payments only add further incentives for pirates to take to the waters. It presents an interesting question of inefficient conduct. These companies are acting in their short term interests to secure a vessel as a fraction of what they would lose. However, they are creating a type of tragedy of the commons where they actions (and other individual companies) are killing one of the world’s most essential water passages. Like pollution or over-use of a resource, paying ransoms forces others to bear increased costs and risks. Each company is acting in a wealth-maximizing fashion, but in the long run harming all sea-going companies and countries by their enabling behavior.
One question is whether the world could make it a crime or at least secure an international agreement not to pay pirates as a matter of sea safety. Individual countries would then enforce the rule against their own companies. The problem is that there are situations where such ransom may be viewed as inevitable. One case involve pirates seizing a huge chemical tanker and moving it near a populated area. Destroying the vessel (or this Saudi tanker) would cause untold environmental damage.
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