I hope I’ve caught your attention with that title. While piracy has been a small trend throughout the Federation, recently it’s become a plague, especially on the outlying colonies. (You’ve probably heard of the FTU strike and the letter written by the Colonial Coalition). It’s time to examine this more closely, and see what might really be going on.
A (Brief) History of Piracy from the Launch of the NX-01
The history of pirates is a long one, with Nausicaan pirates being the first known threat, until Starfleet began to deploy more ships to patrol the space routes during the nascent days of United Earth. Later, Orion pirates began to supplant Nausicaans as a major threat – establishing the Orion Syndicate. During the Earth-Romulan war, the Romulans would often fund pirates to force Starfleet to divert resources to protect its cargo shipping and merchants.
After the Earth-Romulan war settled, the Romulans still remained active as sponsors of piracy – they funded the Elasi, a species native to the planet Menalvagor, so that they could continue acting against the Federation. While Starfleet settled this by making peace with the then ruling faction who joined the Federation, drying up the Elasi threat took several years, and during this, the Orion Syndicate continued on.
“The Orion Syndicate is a menace against all of us, and collectively, we must take steps to provide for the safety of our shipping,” declared Fleet Admiral Morrow in 2284, shortly before increasing patrol activity along the edges of Federation space.
Soon, with the discovery of the Ferengi, Ferengi pirates also joined the fun, causing Starfleet to have to divert resources from exploration to patrols within the Federation. And finally, we can’t forget privateers… and on that subject:
I’ve alluded above to the Elasi (which occurred in the late 23rd century.), but it happened shortly before and after the Dominion War, with Breen privateers spotted in 2372. There has always been a certain amount of tension, but starting in 2390, the incidents of piracy on the outer edge of the Federation began to rise sharply. While there has always been rogue Klingon pirates, the High Council and the Great Houses formally disavow any such dishonorable activity.
“Sure, they disavow any activity, but there’s nothing saying they turn a blind eye. I mean, the Klingons are a race of warriors, and this is a form of war,” said Dr. Katoh Erasi of the Federation Border Defense Think Tank, located in Terra Nova. “However, each time we’ve turned someone over, they have executed them. If they are allowing this, it’s with a blind eye to any activity.”
When the FNS approached the High Command for a quote, they said simply that any Klingon who would pirate such would be punished as soon as they are caught.
The Nausicaans have always been privateers, but Starfleet does dedicate a certain amount of resources to that sector to stop them from getting out of control (with mixed results – after all, Operation Safe Harbor is going as well as Starfleet wants it to.)
Personally, I suspect the Cardassians, based on rising tensions throughout the Menthar Corridor and the push they have made to nonaligned powers to bring them in to the Cardassian Union or as satellite powers. That said, though, it is only 15 years since the end of the Dominion War, and they are still rebuilding, as well as establishing deeper ties with the Federation. While sanctioning piracy would enable them to ‘war on the cheap’, it is unlikely they would wish to provoke the Federation – at least right now. (They also have a persistent piracy problem, although not on the scale as the outlying colonies of the Federation.)
That leaves the fractured Romulan Empire as a major sponsor. While that might be possible, the new government of the Empire has been focused up to now with suppressing the internal factions of the government, and it’s unlikely they are funding piracy on a grand scale.
There are, of course, the Breen, Tholians and Vaadwaur. Maybe even the Maquis Reborn, for that matter.
The Current ThreatThere are a number of reasons why pirates are a current threat now. First off, the Dominion War caused a huge diversion of funds into fleets and rebuilding. Shortly after the war ended, many of the ships were scrapped, but a great deal of ships that weren’t as new were sold to planetary governments (mostly core worlds, although the program itself is still ongoing).
The conflicts after that have ensured that Starfleet’s resources are still stretched a little thin, causing patrols to be understrength. Secondly, the growth of the Federation has meant that bases are now more widely spread out rather than to a set distance as before. (It’s of note that often, planetary governments over this distance often get ships more often, presumably due to the distance from the nearest Starbase)
But the reason why I went over state sponsored piracy was that the pirate ships often can exceed speed of the ships assigned to Operation Safe Harbor. This has raised many suspicions as to what exactly is going on. The ability to burst over Warp 9.2 or maintain a speed over Warp 7 indicates advanced engines and ships are being used. The fact that they can evade Starfleet patrols indicates some organization and the ability to gather intel on where Starfleet is going.
But that said, while I’m sure Starfleet Intelligence is investigating, that doesn’t solve the problem now with cargo activity shut down. What we need, is convoys. Rather than have the ships patrol and respond at incidents, have them escort convoys in transit, allowing Starfleet to conserve resources and be far more efficient about chasing them down. The need for secrecy might stretch resources, but it’d save the ships, and therefore the cargo, and therefore the Federation.
Also, Starfleet should start upgrading the fleet in general – the Romulans and Cardassians largely have, and the Ronin class could easily replace many of the Nebula class ships, as well as assigning more Dakota class ships.
But at this point, we should ask: what do our new prospective leaders want to do?Of course, Kevin Steiner has called for this as part of his agenda of expanding Starfleet. Ambassador Lily Ventu, on the other hand, has put out a statement:
“I urge any Federation citizen concerned with the notion of piracy to frame those concerns with caution and compassion. ‘Piracy’ is now and always has been a loaded term, one applied most often, historically, by the individuals who hold personal success to those who do not. Piracy is, by its most basic definition, a form of lawlessness, but I would remind all citizens that one generation’s lawlessness is the next’s revolution and the following’s order.
Far be it from this candidate for the great Office of the President to suggest that piracy is excusable, of course, but where some may advocate harsher punishments or stricter controls, I will always advocate for the ways of peace and understanding. Let us know these pirates, let us understand why they have turned to piracy — and in doing so, let us see what parts of our own cultural practice may require reevaluation.”
I am sure that the families of the freighters hit appreciate her high minded views, although as many are not even Federation races, I’m not sure how evaluating our cultural practices helps. One can take it though, that she would not be in favor of enhanced patrols.
So I will end this differently for me: I’m interested in hearing your views, dear reader.