School of Natural and Environmental Sciences


Piracy in the Gulf

How can the current maritime security policy in Kuwait be improved to eradicate the threat of piracy in the Arabian Gulf and internationally?


The Arabian Gulf region is particularly vulnerable to the threat of piracy because of the amount of minerals and oil resources combined with the intensity of international shipping in and out of the Gulf. The problem is compounded by there being many different kinds of piracy, for example, piracy in this region is largely carried out  by Somalian pirates south of the Gulf generally in pursuit of ransom money, but  piracy carried out by Iranian and Iraqi pirates in the north of the Gulf is generally in pursuit of political,  ideological, or religious goals. Another complication is that there are many different types of responses to piracy by shipping nations. To illustrate, Russia and U.K generally take a military approach, and attempt to coerce the pirates into abandoning their missions, whereas some of the Arabian Gulf countries tend to negotiate ransom deals with the pirates.

Kuwait’s policy appears to be a middle way between these two extremes – namely capturing the pirates and returning them to their countries of origin which usually releases them to resume their piratic activities. However, neither of these different approaches appears to have made much impact in reducing piracy: military approaches seem to have made pirates more aggressive and more armed; while negotiations seem to have  made pirates more active and eager to obtain money. Both approaches share one assumption in common - they address the symptoms of the problem not its causes. That is to say, they are reactive, not pro-active: they try to deal with piracy after, rather than before the event. Instead of seeking to prevent piracy from happening in the first place by examining its causes, they seek to deal with it after it has occurred. They fail to understand the core drivers that underpin piracy and the origin of piracy because their efforts thus far are confined to fighting and vanquishing the outcomes of terrorism, not to root out its sources, origins and motives.

This study seeks to remedy this deficiency by investigating the fundamental drivers of maritime piracy, and by doing so, to develop more effective strategies for dealing with it.

Aim and research questions

How can the current maritime security policy in Kuwait be improved to eradicate the threat of piracy in the Arabian Gulf and internationally? In order to develop a more effective security defence against piracy a number of research questions and themes are being addressed: 

  1. The ideology behind maritime piracy in the Gulf.
  2. The psychological motives (financial, political, religious) driving pirates’ behaviour.
  3. The backgrounds of pirates (their economic and social circumstances, their relation to religion, their education and so forth).
  4. The tools pirates use to conduct piracy (technology, weapons, physical strength).
  5. The difference between pirates and other seafarers like fishers.