Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who are you calling a Pirate?

And you laugh at the Marines for using cutlasses.
They're everywhere in Traveller. Every group of Travellers will encounter pirates at some point in their adventurous career; it's almost a requirement. Piracy is a popular and often-debated topic, but how do you decide who's a pirate and who isn't? Does the Third Imperium have a definition of piracy? The Traveller Wiki says no; this entry simply assumes that piracy exists.

All right, then, I'll do it.  

Piracy, as defined in Holtzmann's Corridor

Most planetary governments of the Corridor (and all of the Client States) accept as conventional the Imperial (Talaveran) definition of piracy. Wording may vary, and the Empire may not be referenced, but no one wants to argue with the Royal Navy.

Talaveran Imperial Ministry of Justice Definition of Piracy

Piracy shall be defined as:
  1. Any unlawful acts of violence or detention or depredation, or reasonable threat of same, committed by private persons for private goals; by the crew and/or passengers of a private vessel, starship or spaceship; which is:
    1. in the Sovereign space of any State, or in High Space within the Territory of any State.
    2. Against any vessel, spaceship or starship, or against persons or property aboard such a vessel, spaceship or starship
  2. Acting as crew or operator of a vessel, spaceship or starship, unless under duress or coercion, which engages in any action described in section 1 above.
  3. Acting to incite or facilitate any action described in section 1 above, including agreement to purchase or acquire any persons or property acquired by such action.
The Empire deploys military forces as peacekeepers in the Corridor. The most obvious example is Dorothua, which is an occupied state. There may be Imperial troops on other worlds as well.

Defending commerce against piracy is the job of Customs Inspectors, and Naval Escort assets – usually Sloops of War or smaller.

Royal Talaveran Naval Statutes on Territorial Authority

From the planet's surface to the 10 diameter limit is exclusively the territory of the dominant State. This region is commonly known as Near or Orbital Space. This area extends along the ordinary orbital path of the main world, such that leading and trailing Trojan clusters, and any other co-orbiting objects are included.

From the 10 diameter limit, inclusive of all satellites, natural and artificial, claimed by the dominant State, extending out to the 100-diameter limit (safe Jump limit) is considered Sovereign Space, and is exclusively the territory of the dominant world.

Criminal activity in Near Space is considered to be identical to the same type of criminal activity committed on the planet's surface, and is under law enforcement jurisdiction. Criminal activity in Sovereign Space is defined at Piracy, and falls under the authority of the local space-based government forces.

The area beyond the 100-diameter limit of the main world is commonly called High Space. It is assumed that the dominant State can exert authority out to the point 10 diameters outside the orbit of the outermost planet of the solar system. Kyuiper Belt Objects and Plutoids fall outside of this region, and are considered to be in Deep Space, beyond the authority of any State.

As such, if a ship is attacked in Deep Space, the government which holds the registry of the vessel may attempt to press suit against the attackers, if they can be found, and brought into that government's sphere of authority. Identifying and tracking the attacking vessels is a legally complicated business, often undertaken by bounty hunters and skip tracers, with little or no authority from any government for their actions.

The Royal Talaveran Navy issues RTN Warnings of piratical activity and piracy-prone zones.

If you're interested in studying real-world anti-piracy practice, consult this page at the Homeland Security Digital Library. The link is to their section on Sea Piracy.

Real world reference: International Maritime Bureau's Piracy ReportingCentre
Photo credit: The Pirate flag of Jack Rackham, Wikimedia Commons

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