February 23, 2014 Leave a comment
The French press reported recently a piracy attack off the South-West coast of Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the press reports, the attack took place on February 16th, and the victim vessel was a French yacht, with three passengers (including the yacht owner) on board. The four attackers were allegedly both masked and armed; they managed to quickly neutralize the yacht passengers and to lock them up inside the cabin. After about three hours, the attackers forced the victims to embark on a smaller life boat (which had been attached to the larger yacht), and then abandoned them on the sea. Luckily for the victims, they managed to reach the southern coast of Corsica safely, where they reported the attack.
While the reasons for the attack remain uncertain as of now, it is possible that the attackers were part of a yacht trafficking ring. Such a ring existed during the last decade, between southern France, Corsica, and Tunisia, before it was successfully dismantled through law enforcement operations. Piracy attacks in the Mediterranean Sea are of course virtually inexistent. It was thus surprising to hear about reports of this attack.
Legally speaking, it is unclear whether this attack can properly be classified as “piracy.” Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an act of piracy has to be committed on the high seas – waters beyond the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the littoral state. In this instance, the French press did not specify where the attack took place and whether it occurred in the French territorial sea or on the high seas (the article mentioned that the attack took place “near” the coast of Corsica). If the attack did take place on the high seas, then we would be witnessing the incidence of piracy off the coast of France – something that the world has not seen in several centuries!