Mary Harper, a BBC Africa analyst, has written a good piece about the economic impact of piracy in the Somali port of Eyl. Well worth reading.
While in East Africa last year, I was told of the typical ransom sums that Somali pirates receive from hijacking vessels and holding them, and their crews, hostage: A freighter carrying UN food aid garners about $100-150,000 (US). A small container ship can net $750,000. A fishing trawler with a full catch in her holds is worth anywhere from $800,000 to $1.2 million. Ransoms have been as high as $2.5 million. And they have been paid. It's a big business, and a most of that money ends up in the hands of Somali warlords.
For a behind-the-scenes look at how shipowners negotiate with the pirates, check out German journalist Sebastian Rosener's short piece in Bild.