The Big Business Of High-Seas Piracy

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The World Bank released a report on the economics of piracy in Somalia. Host Rachel Martin reports that hijacking the ship is just one part of the elaborate enterprise: books are kept, expenses tallied and salaries paid.


In Tom Hanks' latest movie, "Captain Phillips" audiences were taken aboard a ship under attack by Somali pirates. This past week, a new report by the World Bank, the U.N., and Interpol followed the money trail behind Somali pirates and found...

STUART YIKONA: This is a business. It was investors coming together to invest.

MARTIN: That's Stuart Yikona from the World Bank, who co-authored the report.

Since 1995, more than $400 million has been paid in ransom money, almost $3 million per hijacking. A hijacking is just one part of the elaborate enterprise. When the money men take over, they negotiate a bounty for a ship's release in U.S. dollars.

YIKONA: It is very well organized. I mean they have machines that count the money as well as check to make sure these are not counterfeit U.S. dollars.

MARTIN: The financiers take their cut, while the pirates end up pocketing somewhere between $30,000 and $75,000. All of the money helps sustain an entire pirate-based economy.

YIKONA: And then you have other suppliers of goods and services - mechanics, cooks - and, of course, the money goes back into financing, say, the pirate activities. The money is going around in circles.

MARTIN: And stopping that circle, the report finds, means going after investors not just policing pirates.


MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from