The world is waging war against the pirates of Somalia. Hundreds of warships from all over the globe are patrolling the waters around Somalia to secure their economic and national interests. When you realize 90% of the world's goods are transported over sea, imagine the threat piracy poses to the supply chain of the global economy. We are reminded there is no such thing as free shipping.

Piracy started when the absence of a functioning government in Somali brought foreign fishing trawlers to fish illegally in Somali waters. Trawlers from Europe and Asia fished for yellowfin tuna until Somali fisherman took up arms to protect their declining fish stock. What started as retaliation against illegal fishing, has become a million dollar business with investors from Dubai, with pirates carrying satellite phones and GPS. If you consider the cargo of a full VLCC oil tanker is worth $ 200 million, a $ 3 million ransom for crew and ship doesn’t seem that unreasonable.

Double Standards shows us how the shipping industry has its own ways of defying the law. Investigating the 59 ships that were seajacked between 2010 and 2012, maritime trade reveals its true face. The majority of the world’s commercial ships do not use not their own nationalities, but flags from Panama, Liberia, Antigua Barbuda, or the Marshall islands. These ghost nationalities are used to avoid taxes, and dodge labor- and environmental regulations. This maritime lawlessness and financial opportunism demonstrates the double standards of the countries using military force to protect these practices. A lawlessness not so different from that of the pirates themselves.


PDF (41 mb)


Limited edition of 8. Digital print on newspaper stock. 256 pages full color.
Glued and ring bound. Price EUR 100 per book. E-mail to inquire.


ASIAN GLORY Vehicle Carrier United Kingdom Israel 01/01/2010
PRAMONI Chemical Tanker Singapore Norway 01/01/2010
RIM General Cargo North Korea Libya 02/03/2010
AL NISR AL SAUDI General Cargo Saudi Arabia Pakistan 01/03/2010
SAKOBA Fishing Trawler Kenya Spain 03/03/2010
UBT OCEAN Chemical Tanker Marshall Islands Norway 05/03/2010
FRIGIA Chemical Tanker Malta Turkey 23/03/2010
TALCA Refrigerated Cargo Bermuda Italy 23/03/2010
ICEBERG I RO-RO Cargo Panama UAE 29/03/2010
SAMHO DREAM VLCC Tanker Marshall Islands South Korea 04/04/2010
XIANG HUA MEN General Cargo Panama China 06/04/2010
RAK AFRIKANA General Cargo St. Vincent and Grenadines UAE 11/04/2010
VOC DAISY Bulk Carrier Panama Greece 21/04/2010
MARIDA MARGUERITE Bulk Carrier Antiqua Barbuda Germany 08/05/2010
PANEGA Chemical Tanker Bulgaria Germany 11/05/2010
ELENI P. Liberia Liberia Greece 12/05/2010
QSM DUBAI General Cargo Panama UAE 02/06/2010
GOLDEN BLESSING Chemical Tanker Singapore China 28/06/2010
MOTIVATOR Chemical Tanker Marshall Islands Greece 04/07/2010
SUEZ General Cargo Panama Egypt 0/08/2010
SYRIA STAR General Cargo St. Vincent and Grenadines Syria 05/08/2010
OLIB G. Chemical Tanker Malta Greece 08/09/2010
ASPHALT VENTURE Bitumen Tanker Panama India 29/09/2010
IZUMI General Cargo Panama Japan 10/10/2010
YORK LPG Tanker Singapore Greece 23/10/2010
POLAR Product Tanker Panama Greece 30/10/2010
HANNIBAL II Chemical Tanker Panama Tunesia 11/11/2010
YUAN XIANG General Cargo Panama China 26/11/2010
ALBEDO Container Ship Malaysia Iran 26/11/2010
JAHAN MONI Bulk Carrier Bangladesh India 05/12/2010
MSC PANAMA Container Ship Liberia USA 10/12/2010
RENUAR Bulk Carrier Panama Greece 11/12/2010
ORNA Bulk Carrier Panama UAE 20/12/2010
THOR NEXUS General Cargo Thailand China 25/12/2010
EMS RIVER General Cargo Antigua Barbuda Germany 27/12/2010
BLIDA Bulk Carrier Algeria Greece 01/01/2011
SAMHO JEWELRY Chemical Tanker Malta South Korea 15/01/2011
EAGLE Bulk Carrier Cyprus Greece 17/01/2011
HOANG SON SUN Bulk Carrier Mongolia* Vietnam 17/01/2011
KHALED MUHIEDINNE K. Bulk Carrier Togo Syria 20/10/2011
BELUGA NOMINATION Heavy Lift Carrier Antigua Barbuda Germany 22/01/2011
SAVINA CAYLYN Tanker Italy Italy 08/02/2011
IRENE SL VLCC Tanker Greece Greece 09/02/2011
SININ Bulk Carrier Malta Iran 12/02/2011
DOVER Bulk Carrier Panama Greece 28/02/2011
SINAR KUDIS General Cargo Singapore Indonesia 06/03/2011
ZIRKU Aframax Tanker UAE Kuwait 28/03/2011
SUSAN K. General Cargo Antigua Barbuda Germany 08/04/2011
ROSALIA D’AMATO Bulk Carrier Italy Italy 21/04/2011
GEMINI Product Tanker Singapore South Korea 30/04/2011
JUBBA XX Tanker UAE USA 16/07/2011
FAIRCHEM BOGEY Chemical Tanker Marshall Islands USA 20/08/2011
LIQUID VELVET Chemical Tanker Marshall Islands Greece 31/10/2011
ENRICO IEVOLI Chemical Tanker Italy Italy 27/12/2011
FREE GODDESS Bulk Carrier Liberia Greece 07/02/2012
LEILA RO-RO Cargoship Panama UAE 02/18/2012
ROYAL GRACE Chemical Tanker Panama UAE 05/03/2012
EGLANTINE Bulk Carrier Bolivia* Iran 26/03/2012
SMYRNI Tanker Liberia Greece 10/05/2012

Update: Since the publication of this book in 2012, the crews of 58 ships have been released by ransom or otherwise. Except the MV ALBEDO, of which still 15 members remain in capitivity since 29 November 2011. In July 2013 the ship sank during captivity and it is unknown what happened to the remaining crew. Their families have made a desperate attempt to appeal to the pirates to release the crew. Please support their efforts.

* Landlocked country
Images of the flags used in the book are maritime flags, known as ensigns, which may differ from a country's normal flag image.

ICC International Maritime Bureau, Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships, London 2010-2012
Marine Traffic Database,, Trade Winds magazine, Ecoterra International, Lloyds Fairplay register,, International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), The Guardian, The New York Times, The Financial Times.



Unmapping the World 2013. Lisbon, Portugal.


Festival d'Affiche, Chaumont France, 2013.

Sandberg Graduation, Amsterdam 2012.


What started out as an investigation into the Dutch government spending EUR 9 million annually to fight Somali piracy, turned out to reveal a dark side of the maritime world. The Dutch depend heavily on maritime trade with Rotterdam as Europe's largest port, and have a significant interest in oil and gas trade from the Persian Gulf. After Somali pirates started seajacking ships, the Dutch government decided to ensure a continued flow of trade by sending Dutch warships, armed with drones and helicopters, to the Gulf of Aden, and stationing Dutch soldiers on commercial ships. We are not the only ones. Almost every industrialized country has sent navy ships to the area to protect their own trade interests. Annually the world spends 2 billion to fight piracy, which is twice the amount as was spent on aid to fight the famine in the horn of Africa in 2010. As a Dutch national I know more about maritime trade than about Somalia, so I decided to focus on the involvement of the global maritime industry in the conflict.

We should not underestimate the importance of maritime trade, which accounts for 90% of all international trade. Annual turnover of the industry is an estimated $ 8 trillion. 60.000 ships pass Somalia every year, an average of 160 each day. Approximately 15 tankers a day pass through the Straits of Hormuz, carrying about 17 million barrels of crude oil. This represents almost 40% of the world seaborne oil shipments. The stakes are enormous, and the industry has to keep costs down to stay competitive. By using a system called ‘flags of convenience’ the shipowners have found ways to cut corners and stay profitable, but at a very high cost. The way it works is that the majority of commercial ships don't use the owner’s nationality but buy a ‘cheap flag’ from another country. This allows the ship owner to pay little or no taxes, dodge environmental regulations, and underpay the crew. That's how Panama, Marshall islands and Liberia came to host 40% of the worlds entire fleet. If you're a ship, buying a new nationality is a matter of filling in a form and paying some money. Some ships change nationality a few times a year. This makes inspection and regulation extremely difficult.

My research was focused on the ocean faring ships that were ‘seajacked’ by Somali pirates between 2010 and 2012, based on the data by the International Maritime Bureau. Of these 59 ships, only four turned out to use the ships actual nationality. Owner companies were often based in tax havens like the Bahamas, and shell companies were set up for each ship, making it difficult to establish ownership. This lack of transparancy and murky use of nationalities allow all sorts of semi-legal and illegal behavior. In my research stories of fraud, illegal fishing, possible arms trade, and even terrorism surfaced. Several ships directly violated the UN sanctions against Iran. But by far the most common activities are tax dodging and underpaying and maltreatment of the ships’s crews, while certain shippin tycoons are known for their life of luxury and excess. It is the ship’s crew that suffers most in the piracy conflict, some crew being held hostage for several years.

Violent acts like piracy should not and cannot be justified. Crewmembers have been tortured and have died at the hands of the pirates. But it is absurd to think the complex problems that face one of the poorest countries in the world, can be solved by sending warships and soldiers. We should be aware which 'national economic interests' we are sending our military out to secure. Illegality and fraudulent behavior has infected the maritime industry with its flags of convenience, exploiting human labor, and dismissing environmental regulations for financial gain. This project clearly shows the moral voids this system has allowed to exist, virtually without any criticism. Our need for cheap goods transported across continents is more important than a morally just maritime economy. The international community (EU, NATO, UN) not only justifies this behavior, but enforces it using military power.

Double Standards is the 2012 graduation project of Ruben Pater, as the result of the masters of design programme at the Sandberg institute in Amsterdam. All 59 flags and the stories of the ships are collected in a publication, presented with 15 handmade flags, each representing a seajacked ship, and a large map of the global maritime economy. Concept, design and text by Ruben Pater, 2014. Typeset in Monofonto and Arial Monospaced.