Maritime Piracy

Maritime piracy involves unauthorized boarding and assault on ships for theft or extortion. This experience can significantly impact a victim’s life, from trauma to financial losses. Victims have the legal right to seek compensation under federal laws like the Jones Act.

A Maritime Piracy lawyer plays a major role in handling the legal process, aiming to obtain the highest possible compensation and justice for the victim. Below, BoatLaw, LLP will provide important information about Maritime Piracy, including its types and causes, legal options for victims, potential financial compensation under laws like the Jones Act, and the assistance a Maritime Piracy lawyer offers throughout this challenging process.

Maritime Piracy Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one have experienced piracy while working on a cargo ship or while on board a luxury or cruise vessel, you need to speak with an experienced injury attorney.

The personal injury attorneys at BoatLaw, LLP are ready to fight aggressively for any injuries you may have experienced as a result of piracy, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and physical injuries.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to secure an initial consultation. We litigate maritime cases across the country from our offices in Washington, Oregon, and California. Do not settle for less than what your case is worth.

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Types of Maritime Piracy

One common form is attack piracy, where pirates aggressively board ships to rob cargo and personal belongings. Kidnap and ransom piracy is another type, where crew members are taken hostage for ransom. There’s also hijacking, where pirates take over the entire vessel for their use or to demand a ransom from the ship’s owners. Lastly, vandalism piracy involves pirates boarding ships to destroy property without the intent to steal.

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Causes of Maritime Piracy

Economic hardship is a significant factor, as individuals in impoverished regions may turn to piracy as a way of survival. The lack of effective law enforcement in certain areas also contributes to the problem, providing pirates with a relatively risk-free environment to operate. Political instability and conflicts can further exacerbate the issue, with pirates often using lawless regions as safe havens. Lastly, the maritime trade makes ships attractive targets for pirates seeking to steal cargo or demand ransom.

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Common Types of Victims in Maritime Piracy Cases

Victims of maritime piracy often include crew members and passengers of commercial vessels, private yachts, and fishing boats. Crew members are particularly vulnerable as they are directly in the line of threat during boarding and hijacking incidents. Fishermen operating in high-risk areas can also fall prey to pirates, losing their catch, equipment, or even becoming hostages themselves. Private yacht owners and their guests are targets because of the perceived wealth associated with vessels, making them susceptible to attack, kidnapping, and ransom demands.

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Where Maritime Piracy Happens

In Washington, California, Oregon, and Alaska, maritime piracy is relatively rare compared to global hotspots. However, risks may exist, especially in areas less traveled or monitored. In California and Washington, the busier ports might see occasional incidents, primarily petty theft or unauthorized boardings rather than the more aggressive forms of piracy found in international waters. Oregon and Alaska’s vast and remote coastlines could potentially offer opportunities for piracy, though incidents are uncommon because of effective law enforcement and the challenging environment. Mariners in these regions are advised to remain alert and report any suspicious activities to authorities.

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Potential Liable Parties for Maritime Piracy

A victim from the United States could bring a claim under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows individuals to file civil suits in U.S. courts for violations of international law, including acts of piracy. Piracy violates several international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and customary international law, by committing acts of robbery and violence at sea.

Additionally, a United States citizen who is a victim of an attack by a group designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) has specific civil rights under federal law. One key right is the ability to file civil lawsuits against the FTO and entities that support it. This provision aims to provide justice for victims and their survivors by holding the responsible parties financially accountable. The designation makes it illegal for anyone to provide material support to the FTO, which includes funding, training, or any other form of assistance. Victims can seek damages for their losses, which can lead to compensation for the harm suffered due to the attack.

Also, ship owners and operators can potentially face liability under certain circumstances. For instance, if a ship’s owner fails to follow security guidelines or provide adequate safety measures, they might be held responsible for the consequences of a pirate attack. For example, the Jones Act primarily concerns employer negligence, but it can extend to situations where inadequate security or safety measures lead to a piracy incident. Additionally, unseaworthiness under general maritime law can apply if a vessel was not reasonably fit for its intended use, including preventing piracy attacks.

The Jones Act allows crew members to claim compensation for personal injuries because of employer negligence, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In cases of wrongful death under the Jones Act, the victim’s family can seek compensation for their loss, including support for dependents and funeral expenses. When it comes to filing negligence claims under the Jones Act or unseaworthiness claims, the statute of limitations is three years.

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Steps to Take After Experiencing Maritime Piracy

Immediately after experiencing maritime piracy, the victim should ensure their safety and report the incident to the ship’s captain or security officer. They should then seek medical attention for any injuries. It is helpful to document the incident and any injuries or damages sustained. Contacting legal authorities and a maritime piracy lawyer for guidance on the next steps is also wise to protect the victim’s rights and interests. A maritime piracy lawyer can evaluate the case, advise on potential claims under federal maritime laws, and help gather necessary evidence. The lawyer can represent the victim in negotiations with employers or insurance companies and, if needed, in court. They aim to get fair compensation for injuries, losses, and other damages the victim has suffered.

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Additional Resources

Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships

The Office of Maritime Security plays a major role in protecting the U.S. maritime transportation system and the Merchant Marine from threats like piracy, terrorism, and cyber-attacks. It develops maritime security policies, procedures, and training to protect against these dangers. Additionally, it provides information to U.S.-flag vessels and coordinates on maritime domain awareness and threat response, facilitating cooperation between the maritime industry and government agencies.

Piracy and Privateering

The U.S. Code outlines crimes of piracy and privateering. It includes definitions and penalties for acts of piracy, like attacks and robbery at sea, providing support to pirates, and the seizure of ships. These laws apply to both U.S. citizens and foreigners and address the consequences of engaging in or supporting piratical activities.

International Maritime Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea

This resource from the U.S. Department of State offers guidance and information on international maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea. It highlights the risks associated with travel by sea near regions prone to maritime crime and provides recommendations for U.S. citizens to stay safe. The site also links to U.S. maritime alerts and advice on how to report suspicious activity.

Terrorist Designation of the Houthis

On January 17, 2024, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced the designation of Ansarallah, known as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group. This action responds to the Houthis’ recent attacks on international maritime vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and military forces in the area. These attacks have endangered lives, disrupted commerce, and violated navigational rights. The U.S. aims to hold the Houthis accountable for their terrorist activities while ensuring Yemeni civilians do not suffer from this designation.

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Hire a Maritime Personal Injury Attorney

Contact us today to champion your cause and navigate the complexities of maritime claims, ensuring that your rights are fiercely protected and your future is secured.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to secure an initial consultation.

We litigate maritime cases across the country from our offices in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. We handle cases that occur in the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, Coos Bay, The Columbia River, Grays Harbor, Port Angeles, Lake Tahoe, Dutch Harbor, and the Gulf of Alaska.

Do not settle for less than what your case is worth.

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