This is one pirate who won’t be coasting the waters off the Somali coastline looking for a merchant vessel to plunder, any time soon.  A federal judge in Virginia has sentenced a Somali pirate, who pleaded guilty to his role in an attack on a U.S. Navy ship, to 30 years in prison.

The pirate, Jama Idle Ibrahim was part of a group that attacked the USS Ashland on 10 April.    He had been charged with attacking to plunder a vessel, using a firearm during a crime of violence and engaging in an act of violence against persons on the vessel.  He had also been charged with several other crimes, but those charges against Ibrahim and five of his fellow pirates had been dismissed by a Virginia judge in August.

He has now been sentenced to 30 years in prison.  According to US Attorney Neil McBride, this is the first sentencing for piracy on US soil in more than 150 years.  It comes after a couple of years of hectic pirate activity, especially along the Somali coastline and around the Horn of Africa.  Pirates have attacked hundreds of vessels over the past couple of years, taking seamen hostage and threatening maritime safety.

This sentence should send a clear message to anyone plotting an attack on ships that the US will not tolerate maritime piracy.  According to the International Maritime Bureau, piracy has spiked significantly over the past couple of years.  As maritime attorneys, we feel that this sentence sends a strong message to pirates – that they will be tried like criminals in American courts of law and will be sentenced to hefty prison terms.