As exciting as ‘anti-piracy operations’ may sound, or as adventurous as the film “Captain Phillips” may make it seem, the reality of the maritime-security industry is a bit more monotonous. Since the real Maersk Alabama incident, virtually every ship approaching the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor carries armed guards, and the Somali ‘Jack Sparrows’ have become less bold.

Although being a maritime security officer is still no holiday cruise, most of the time onboard is rather uneventful. The precise reasons that led the Somalis to piracy are still unclear. Somalia is a country that has been continuously ravaged by civil war since the 1980s and has an immensely poor population where practically no one has running water or electricity. The alleged toxic-waste dumping in its waters may have been the last straw. Or it may have been just a drop in the ocean.

Whatever prompted the Somalis to take to the seas, it’s clear what keeps them going: profit. At first they would raid ships’ coffers—the typical reserves and crew salaries are no minor amounts. Then they discovered they could make much more by taking ships and crews as hostage.

In response to all this, shipping companies have expanded their security standards, hiring armed teams for the vessels that cross the high-risk area of the Indian Ocean, which extends from the 18th parallel on the Red Sea to the shores of Tanzania, and from the Hormuz Straits to the east of the Maldives island complex. The maritime security used for these passages usually provide teams of three to four guards per vessel. They normally get to travel between ports such as Suez in Egypt, Galle of Sri Lanka, Durban in South Africa, and more in that region.