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‘The Outlaw Ocean’

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Outlaw Ocean'

When criminals ply their trade at sea

“Life on the ocean has long been romanticized as the ultimate expression of freedom — an escape from landlocked life, a chance to explore, to reinvent,” Ian Urbina writes in “The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier.”

Adventurous and romantic tales of going to sea have been told by sailors for centuries, and there are many novels and films that dramatize the excitement and wonder of sailing the seas. And like so many sailors before me, those notions made me enlist in the U.S. Navy when I was just 17 years old.

Unlike the mostly good experiences I encountered at sea, many modern-day sailors suffer the hardships of hunger, disease and brutality while working on fishing boats and other craft around the world. Some are virtual prisoners on boats and ships, and some have been murdered.

Ian Urbina, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, offers a collection of fascinating and often lamentable stories that chronicle how life on the vast oceans of the world is largely ungoverned.

Mr. Urbina offers stories of traffickers, smugglers, pirates and other criminals who take to the sea and ply their criminal trades often beyond the reach of international and national laws.

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