Contemporary Maritime Piracy
International Law, Strategy, and Diplomacy at Sea
by James Kraska
June 2011, 253pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38724-1
$61, £47, 54€, A84
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38725-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In the waters off the Horn of Africa, Somali pirates endanger critical oil shipping. The area is so vast that international naval patrols have proved relatively futile. In Asia, pirates not only hijack vessels but often murder the entire crew, steal ships’ cargoes, and re-register captured vessels under new names as “ghost ships” without a legitimate past record.

This volume provides a concise introduction to the issues and debates regarding modern piracy, including naval operations, law, and diplomacy, and focuses on the recent surge of attacks off the coasts of Africa and Asia.

In the past decade, the incidence of maritime piracy has exploded. The first three months of 2011 were the worst ever, with 18 ships hijacked, 344 crew taken hostage, and 7 crew members murdered. The four Americans on board the sailing vessel Quest were shot at point-blank range. The economic costs are also staggering, reaching $7 to $12 billion per year, as insurance costs skyrocket, ransoms double and then quadruple, and ships are forced to hire armed security for protection. Pirates operating off the Horn of Africa disrupt shipping traffic through the strategic Suez Canal, siphoning transit fees from an unstable Egypt, while the seizure of supertankers in the Indian Ocean underscores the vulnerability of the world’s oil supply.

Governments, private industry, and international organizations have mobilized to address the threat. This is the first volume to examine their work in developing naval strategy, international law and diplomacy, and industry guidelines to suppress contemporary maritime piracy.

Contemporary Maritime Piracy: International Law, Strategy, and Diplomacy at Sea comprises three sections, the first of which contains chapters on historical and contemporary piracy, international law and diplomacy, and coalition strategies for combating future piracy. The second and third parts provide collections of historic profiles and relevant documents.


  • Includes maps and relevant key documents
  • Provides a bibliography of sources of additional information regarding international piracy
James Kraska, JSD, is Howard S. Levie Professor of Operational Law and Senior Associate in the Center for Irregular Warfare and Armed Group at the U.S. Naval War College, in Newport, RI. Kraska also serves as guest investigator at the Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and as senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. A commander and judge advocate in the U.S. Navy, Kraska served as the Oceans Policy Adviser for the Director of Strategic Plans & Policy, Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he developed global counter-piracy policy for the U.S. armed forces and represented the Pentagon in counter-piracy policy at the National Security Council and the International Maritime Organization. Kraska earned a professional doctorate in law from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN; a research doctorate in law from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; and a master's degree in foreign affairs from the School of Politics & Economics at Claremont Colleges, Claremont, CA. His published works include Maritime Power and the Law of the Sea and numerous scholarly articles.


"Commander James Kraska . . . provides an important addition to the navalist's bookshelf with Contemporary Maritime Piracy."—United States Naval Institute, October 1, 2011

"James Kraska is a brilliant and forthright commentator on maritime security and legal issues relating to oceans governance. He brings to the subject an acute legal brain and clarity of exposition rare in both fields. These qualities are exemplified in this fine book in which he elucidates the detail surrounding emerging counter-piracy practices. It is a model exposition which will benefit anyone from the interested amateur to the pressured professional. It is a book that will never be far from my desk."—Martin M. Murphy, Visiting Fellow Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, King's College London and author of Somalia, the New Barbary? Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa

"This volume provides an authoritative, but very accessible, overview of the subject that provides not only the historical and legal context for understanding the pirates in the headlines, but also, perhaps even more importantly, insight into the operational environment of and constraints affecting the merchant mariners, naval personnel, and diplomats who must confront them. Moreover, the extensive appendices render the book an extraordinarily convenient reference. . . .Highly recommended for policymakers and other practitioners, as well as scholars and analysts." —J. Peter Pham, Director, Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, Atlantic Council of the United States

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