Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Jesse T. RIchman

Committee Member

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz

Committee Member

David C. Earnest

Committee Member

C. Ariel Pinto


This dissertation takes a cross-disciplinary approach to understanding pirate activity. Maritime piracy presents a dynamic ever-evolving problem. In today’s globalized world, contemporary maritime piracy presents a transnational threat. It is a complex socio-economic and political problem which the modern world considers to be criminal activity. Like all complex problems it must be deconstructed to fully comprehend it.

All criminal activity, maritime piracy included, has certain elements of supply and demand. For the activity to occur there must be a certain level, or supply, of targets. At the same time, we can posit that there must be a lack of other opportunities for the pirates, who calculate that the risk of engaging in piracy is worthwhile. This risk calculation is a function of the potential rewards minus the sum of the risks. An increase in pirate attacks creates a demand for better maritime security. An increase in maritime security causes an increase in risk to pirates. Improved pirate capabilities may decrease this risk. The result is a constantly evolving complex problem. This study proposes a parsimonious agent-based model, focused on the socio-economic and political variables that encourage piracy, with utility across many specific regional domains. By simplifying the details of certain aspects of the model, the focus is placed on the issues at the heart of the problem. This allows for new insights into the dynamic relationship between these factors.


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