Pirates Now Using Blogs and GPS to Hunt Merchant Vessels

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Piracy – in the ship hijacking, non-torrent sense – is on the rise, and real life pirates are getting increasingly sophisticated with their ship-hunting methods.

According to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, there have been 243 pirate attacks worldwide in 2011 thus far. Somalia alone accounts for the vast majority of the reported incidents, with 64% of the world’s pirate attacks.

(PHOTOS: Dramatic Pirate-Hostage Rescues)

Fast Company has a fascinating post up which takes a look at the technologies being utilized by Somali pirates to track merchant vessels for potential raids, which include things like blogs and GPS systems.

The article states:

“In addition to random attacks on cargo and passenger ships, Somali pirates are increasingly relying on the use of GPS systems, satellite phones, and open-source intelligence such as shipping industry blogs in order to figure out the location of ships. Much of the technological infrastructure used by the pirates is allegedly located in the Somalian city of Eyl, which has been described as the ‘piracy capital of the world.'”

This should hardly come as a surprise. The image of armed gunmen drifting together through the ocean, waiting for unsuspecting cargo ships to cruise by isn’t just a thing of the past – it’s highly inefficient.

Last year, Popular Mechanics reported on drug peddlers using high-tech mechanisms like satellites to avoid the DEA, and Wired did a feature on a Navy-grade submersible that Colombian drug runners were building to transport cocaine. Should we expect anything less from a criminal industry as lucrative (and risky) as pirating?

But the forces behind anti-piracy measures aren’t sitting idly by, either. Last month, we mentioned that the U.S. Navy was launching a sophisticated multiplayer “game” to aid in catching pirates, and the IMB even has its own Twitter account to warn ships of dangerous sightings.

MORE: How Somalia’s Fisherman Became Pirates