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This article is about sea pirates. For other uses see Pirate (disambiguation)

A pirate is a robber attacking from a ship or boat. Pirates usually attack other vessels, usually with the intention of looting their cargo, but may also attack targets on shore. They were termed buccaneers if they operated in the West Indies. See also piracy in the Caribbean.

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Modern Piracy

Piracy in recent times has increased in areas such as South and Southeast Asia (the South China Sea), parts of South America, and the south of the Red Sea, with pirates now favouring small boats and taking advantage of the small crew numbers on modern cargo vessels. Modern pirates prey on cargo ships who must slow their speed in order to navigate narrow straits, making them vulnerable to be overtaken and boarded by small motorboats. In most cases, modern pirates are not interested in the cargo and are mainly interested in taking the personal belongings of the crew and the contents of the ship's safe, which may contain large amounts of cash needed to pay payroll and port fees. In some cases, the pirates will force the crew off the ship and sail the ship to a port where it is repainted and given a new identity through false papers.


A privateer was similar in method, but had a commission or a letter of marque from a government or king to capture merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation. The famous Barbary Corsairs[?] of the Mediterranean were privateers as were the Maltese Corsairs[?], who were authorized by the Knights of St. John. The letter of marque was recognized by international law and meant that a privateer could not be charged with piracy, although this was often not enough to save them. The letter of marque was banned under international law in 1854.

Notable pirates

Notable privateers

Fictional Pirates

this article could benefit from a list of pirate movies

See also hijack, Jolly Roger, keelhauling

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