Pirate Ransom Negotiations

Study examines hostage negotiation and ransom payments to pirates. 

Pirate Ransom Negotiations: Resolving the Paradoxes of Extortionate Transactions with Somali Pirates

William A. Donohue (Michigan State University), Franziska Pugh (Michigan State University), Sharmaake Sabrie (Georgetown University)

Somali pirates take a very business-like approach to their craft. “We attack big ships that can pay us. However, after capturing several ships we have learned about what type of ships to target and which ship owner is able or willing to pay ransom money and the countries these ships usually come from,” remarked a pirate who was interviewed for a study just published in the journal of Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.

The study by a team from Michigan State University interviewed two former Somali pirates now living in Europe. They focused on how the pirates target and capture ships and then negotiate ransoms for the release of the ship.

The conceptual framework used to understand this negotiation process is termed Extortionate Transactions. The framework argues that these kinds of negotiations revolve around five paradoxes. The first two focus on how individuals view the circumstances that bring them into a crisis of extortion. First is the paradox of dispossession, or the more one has the less one has to lose. The hostage taker is both powerful (in the taking of hostages) but powerless (unable to affect change through legitimate channels) at the same time. Second is the paradox of detachment in that parties in the crisis are both attached and detached to one another and the situation simultaneously. They must work through one another to achieve an outcome, but they are detached in the sense that they dislike and distrust one another.

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Source: piracy-studies.org

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