Specifically, I ask what made it possible for half a dozen young men to take over ships as large as the MV Sirius Star—a Liberian flagged oil tanker carrying 2.2 million barrels of crude oil— the largest ship ever to be hijacked? I focus on this question in two different registers. At one level, asking what makes piracy possible brings into view geographies of interaction stretching from London to Singapore, via Djibouti, Somalia, and Dubai, uniting a range of disparate actors from navies to magistrates and from insurance agents to self-proclaimed pirates themselves. Posing this question highlights shifts in regulation and geo-political realignments as well as competing ideas about legality and economy that made possible the emergence and transformation of a global world of piracy (and counter-piracy).
In addition, this question is equally important to understand interactions between diverse set of actors outside the national frame. While pirate boats appear tiny from the bridge of a container ship, even oil tankers are small specks in a vast global sea of trade. In an increasingly virtual era, shipping retains a crucial role in global commerce and the Indian Ocean is central to this world of trade.