The Rise and Fall of Somali Pirates

The Rise and Fall of Somali Pirates

The Rise and Fall of Somali Pirates
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Are Somali Pirates the Robin Hoods of the sea? How piracy in East Africa went from frustrated Somali fishermen to highly organized crime networks.

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Thank you to the experts we spoke with that helped with our research in this story:
– Dr. Brandon Prins for the maritime piracy event and location data maps:
– Cyrus Mody, Deputy Director of the International Maritime Bureau
– Matt Bryden, Strategic Advisor at Sahan Global
– Michael Scott Moore, American journalist and novelist

— Video Chapters —
0:00 Intro
2:24 Ad Read
5:23 Pirates
8:42 The Rise
17:40 The Height
22:45 The Global Response
25:08 The Fall
27:14 Credits
27:36 Announcements and Outro

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Johnny Harris is an Emmy-winning independent journalist and contributor to the New York Times. Based in Washington, DC, Harris reports on interesting trends and stories domestically and around the globe, publishing to his audience of over 3.5 million on Youtube. Harris produced and hosted the twice Emmy-nominated series Borders for Vox Media. His visual style blends motion graphics with cinematic videography to create content that explains complex issues in relatable ways.

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37 Responses

  1. Johnny Harris says:

    The music for this video, created by our in house composer Tom Fox, is available on our music channel, The Music Room! Follow the link to hear this soundtrack and many more:

  2. Dries Verschoren says:

    I will never forget how a Belgian film director, in collaboration with the authorities, managed to lure a Somali pirate to Belgium under the pretext of being an expert in a film about his own life. When the pirate landed in Brussels, he was promptly arrested and trialed for hijacking a Belgian ship. He is still in prison to this day.

  3. Tonja Nohmer says:

    I would be interested in a “best practices” series from around the world. How other countries have developed processes and/or perhaps technologies to address issues such as waste (plastics, nuclear), education, health, living off grid, politics, health “insurance”🙄 and economy. I believe democracy is a must like we have in the US however, I believe greed will ruin it eventually. I would love to see a series on how other societies and cultures have developed “best practices” that have successfully addressed issues that translate universally. Two quick examples are how the Japanese look at and apply education to their children and how the Amish have seriously low health issues in their populations probably because they are more physically active and grow, harvest, and eat only foods they have raised. I would love to chat more if this is an idea you feel has some merit.

  4. gibarel says:

    I remember hearing a case where the pirates tried to board a spanish warship that accompanying another vessel, the cargo ship was fueling on the port and the warship was a few kilometers away waiting, it didn’t went well for the pirates.

  5. a random handsome man says:

    As a somali i, i want to mention the investment part aswell. Basically the pirates act like a company. So you put money in them say $10,000 or you give them weapons like rpg or guns. And then when they make money from the ship they give u a cut. Many people have become wealthy due to this.

  6. Matthew Beasley says:

    Given the history how the US responds to piracy, it amazes me that they ever took American ships. The US position on piracy became well know in this part of Africa in 1797. As stated in the video, the US doesn’t pay ransoms, it sends in the Marines. They likely could have thrived longer if they didn’t have the US Navy joining the coalition defending the ships.

    • Nate Airulla says:

      I feel like I read somewhere the pirates didn’t really know what countries ship they were attacking. And you can have a Dutch owned ship carrying American freight with a Taiwanese crew etc.

  7. Karthe says:

    It would be amazing if you made a video on how Sri Lanka, an economy that was growing so rapidly that it was expected to overtake Japan, suddenly stagnated and then fell.

  8. Abdifatah Ali says:


    • FragemntedOkazaki says:

      yeah, piracy has basically been non-existent in the horn after 2011. the only reason ppl still associate piracy with us is due to the Tom Hanks film Captain Philips. I appreciate Johnny for being honest and mentioning how piracy started in our country as a way of retaliation against these disgusting countries who illegally fished in our waters and dumped toxic waste on our shores damaging the health of local communities. people much more frequently look at piracy in somalia in it’s later stages where it became an actual lucrative business but they forget that this problem would have never existed if these countries didnt exploit the local population

  9. Arun Krishnamurthy says:

    The ethical argument is hard to make because these pirates aren’t a political or ideological monolith. While there still might be subsistence pirates, there’s no one enforcing any piracy law in the region, so anyone with a boat and some weapons can do what they want. And when even one incident pierces the ethical boundary, it immediately applies to everyone in the eyes of the world.

    • E. C. says:

      That is an easy argument to make when live in a function country, where life gives you choices. I wanted to see your “moral dillema” had you been born in a country where poverty is rampant, and you know nothing else than misery.
      Piracy just grew into something that no one could control, because there was no one to control. Of course this would become a business, or an organised crime. Humans are pretty good at that, look at the slave trade in previous centuries, or drug cartels in more recent times.

    • qj0n says:

      Self-organized militia running offensive actions never end well, that’s why we should condemn them from very beginning​​⁠

    • King Ace says:

      I see pirate groups the same way I see governments around the world. Some are corrupt, exploitative, and belligerent; others are disciplined, accountable, and reasonable. Either way, none are a monolith.
      The only major difference between the two is the political spectrum of order to anarchy.

    • qj0n says:

      @King Ace can you give an example of pirates who would keep the values for a longer period of time not being corrupted or immoral? From what I know, to have a stable, law-abiding country, it should be supervised by civil authorities and ideally have several safety mechanisms. If it’s run by an army, it won’t go well

  10. Tasos K says:

    And so began the great pirate era

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