Troubled waters

Piracy and maritime security in Southeast Asia

by Vinita Ramani

Piracy is as old as seafaring itself and some of the world’s hotspots for pirate attacks are also the main trade routes for global oil transportation. From the Straits of Malacca and Singapore to the South China Sea and beyond, who are the pirates of Southeast Asia and what do they want?

Piracy, trade, and politics

A 1658 map of the Indian Ocean, or Erythraean Sea, as it was in antiquity. Composed by Jan Jansson after a similar 1597 map published by A. Ortelius. Wikimedia Commons.

It’s the oil, stupid: global chokepoints

The Strait of Hormuz

The Strait of Malacca

Maritime Security: what are the challenges?

Crimes that happen at sea, according to UNCLOS maritime zones

Maritime incidents in Asia today: what is happening?
The real threat: terrorism in Sulu & Celebes Seas

Sea routes used by fighters to join the Abu Sayyaf Group. Image credit: Stable Seas

Piracy and poverty: an unexplored nexus

Sama-Bajau children in Basilan, Philippines. The Sama-Bajau are the dominant ethnic group in the islands of Tawi-Tawi, Philippines. From the Sulu Archipelago to Mindanao, northern and eastern Borneo, they are known as “sea-gypsies” and have been widely mentioned in historical accounts of piracy and sea raids. Wikimedia Commons.

Disclaimer: Our stories have been researched and fact-checked to the best of our abilities. Should you spot mistakes, inaccuracies, or have queries about our sources, please drop us an e-mail at
In collaboration with
Stable Seas / Partnership

Stable Seas, a program of One Earth Future Foundation, engages the international security community with novel research on illicit maritime activities such as piracy and armed robbery, trafficking and smuggling in persons, IUU (illegal, unreported, and unregulated) fishing, and illicit trades. By understanding how these activities perpetuate organised political violence and threaten economic development and coastal welfare, the unique research products developed by Stable Seas seeks to aid policy development and contribute to maritime security.

Cover image / Richard N. Muallil (Stable Seas)
Illustration / Joceline Kuswanto
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