In my hotel room, we laid a map of the Malacca Strait on the bed. Jhonny’s thick fingers traced the coastlines with practiced familiarity. He pointed to places with obscured shoals and noted currents and unmapped islands. “This area,” he drew his finger around Batam and Singapore, “too many patrols now.” He moved his finger to a spot south of the strait, “now the best place for shopping is here.”
“Shopping,” Batam argot for the lowest level of piracy, is roughly equivalent to robbing a liquor store. Even the smallest cargo ships and tankers carry sizable amounts of cash, used to buy supplies in port and to pay the crew. Often these ships are older and have less security than newer, larger ships. Sometimes, Jhonny says, the captains are running their own scams, conserving fuel by going slow, then selling the excess to passing ships and pocketing the cash. He explained that shopping trips are carried out by teams of “jumping squirrels,” pirates who use wooden boats called pancungs, rigged with powerful engines, to stalk the ships at night and climb up the sides and rob the crew. I tell him I would like to meet a jumping squirrel. “It’s possible,” he said, and dialed a number.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Peter Gwin wrote an absolutely brilliant piece for National Geographic Magazine about pirates who patrol the Strait of Malacca. For his story, he traveled to Batam to meet an experienced pirate who shared with him some secrets of how pirates there really work. From National Geographic Magazine:
Posted by I.Z. Reloaded at 8:22 PM
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