Hollywood has often glamorized pirates as swashbucklers manning tall ships. The typical pirate operated from a rather small and agile craft and was often utterly heartless. The penalty for the crime was typically hanging and burial in the sand near the water’s edge at low tide so the ocean would take the carcass. Sometimes the head of a pirate would be displayed as a trophy of justice.
Piracy is alive and well around Somalia and the often youthful offenders seem to be preying on ships flying a variety of flags. The number of nations with a vested interest in the suppression of piracy is increasing. Besides the United States, there are: China, France, Great Britain, Iran, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the maritime efforts of these nations could be combined into a command and control structure that would use shared resources to defeat and destroy all pirates. The United States should exercise a leadership role on the basis of technical assets to locate and track pirate vessels. The others could provide the terminal search and destroy functions. This would not be traditional naval warfare but a policy of extermination. After notice is served that all pirate vessels will be sunk on sight, the game would be over.
Technical means could be used to monitor merchant vessels. Microwave transponders linked with GPS could uplink current position in encrypted form using a known pseudo-random frequency agility. This would allow a geosynchronous satellite to be placed in orbit directly above the region of concern. The uplink angle would not allow some technically-adept pirate to locate a potential target. Implementation of such technology would not be as costly as a few ransom payments of the environmental cost of the sinking of a supertanker.
Another approach would be to put armed guards on board merchant ships and equip them with long-range weapons and a rudimentary fire control system.
The goal would be to minimize the number of trials by taking as few prisoners as possible. Let the pirates make arrangement for their own rescue.