Piracy Risk A Matter Of Dollars And Sense

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CBS

Russian T-72 tanks were in the hands of Somali pirates, the cargo aboard a Ukrainian ship that was hijacked last September.

But the pirates gave them back for $3.2 million. It's the highest ransom paid for any ship so far and a drop in the ocean for a global shipping industry that's worth $8 trillion, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

Even the highest estimates put the total cost of piracy - from ransoms to patrols - at $50 billion worldwide.

That doesn't compare to the cost of the ships or the value of their cargo.

"Really from the point of view of business and shipping companies it's seen as an acceptable business loss," said Peter Chalk, a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation.

Last year there were 293 incidents of piracy against ships around the world - an 11 percent increase from the year before.

Compare that to an increase of nearly 200 percent in attacks off Somalia - 111 last year - and 66 attacks there already in the first few months of this year.

As a grainy cell phone video shot by pirates shows, the groups are well armed and increasingly bold.

The world has been waiting to see what the U.S. policy on pirates would be.

Monday, President Obama warned that the pirates must be stopped.

"We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise, and we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes," the president said.

Some experts think military action must target the pirates' land bases in order to eliminate the problem.

The U.S. knows exactly where the pirate bases are located inside Somalia and could launch precision strikes.

Others warn that military action may only escalate the use of force.

"The prime motivation here for piracy off the horn of Africa is money," Chalk said. "And up to this point that has been successfully executed through keeping crew members safe, treating them well because that increases the bargaining power on the part of the pirates."

For American crew members that may no longer be the case. Pirates are now threatening to kill Americans onboard any ship they take.