"Arrr! So you want to be a Somali pirate, do ya, matey? Well, the pay's pretty good -- up to $79,000 a year, where most salaries average $500 ... but we don't offer life insurance. Those pesky SEALs, you know ..."

This is the upshot of the BBC's recent report on Somali piracy: It's a great gig (if you live long enough to enjoy it). But the news for the victims of piracy is quite a bit worse.

Citing a study by "economic intelligence" outfit Geopolicity, BBC says piracy off the Somali coast is taking a heavy toll on shippers such as DryShips (Nasdaq: DRYS) and Frontline (NYSE: FRO). Between ransom demands, increased security, and added fuel costs from diverting to longer routes less likely to run afoul of pirates, shippers are spending as much as $8.3 billion annually.

Worse, that number could rise to $15 billion by 2015 if the piracy problem doesn't get solved. And with salaries in the "piracy industry" so lucrative, we're not seeing the hoped-for wave of retirements by pirate baby boomers. To the contrary, Geopolicity sees a bull market in piracy, and new job openings of 200 to 400 positions annually.

Arrr! Arrr! A pirate says "Arrr!"
Perversely, this could be great news for a beleaguered U.S. defense industry. The first company to proffer a sub-$8 billion solution to the problem could make a killing (so to speak). Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) and its patented pirate microwave-er, Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) and the Fire Scout. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and the Littoral Combat Ship -- any one of these products has the potential to help out.

One of these days, the pirates are going to get a response to their help wanted ad ... but it won't like it.

Which defense stock will be first to profit from the piracy problem? Add them all to your Fool watchlist, and find out.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above, but The Fool owns shares of Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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