In 1717, the notorious pirate Blackbeard was hunted down by two Royal Navy sloops, decapitated and his crew hanged. The golden age of piracy was soon to end. But 300 years later, it is on the rise again, and the Navy has fewer "resources" to combat it than in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The admission, in a government report in the Commons, has shocked MPs who fear little is being done to combat piracy, up by 168 per cent since 1992.
The modern pirates' most deadly haunts are the Strait of Malacca, off Indonesia, the Gulf of Guinea and off Somalia. Since 1992, there have been more than 3,500 attacks, killing 340 sailors and passengers. Last year alone, 150 were assaulted by pirates and 650 were kidnapped.
MPs on the transport committee have urged the Government "to take the upward trend of violent attacks seriously, and to take action to reverse it".
Between 1993 and 2004, UK-flagged ships were involved in 32 piratical encounters. In 1992, Captain John Bashforth died from gunshot wounds, after his ship was boarded off Indonesia. The yachtsman Sir Peter Blake was shot dead by pirates in 2001 while anchored in the Amazon.
The Navy said it patrols known pirate areas and would intervene on the high seas in answer to a distress call. But the Navy is not permitted to take on pirates inside national waters, where many attacks are made.
Nelson's flagship; first-rate British ship of the line
Length: 69.3 metres
Firepower: 104 guns
Length: 194 metres
Crew: 685 plus 366 air arm
Firepower: 32 guns
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