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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Piracy in the Indian Ocean - the impact on seafarers

For the last few years I have on more than a dozen occasions and now rising rapidly, met with family members of seafarers stuck in piracy and similar captivity episodes, as well as with seafarers who have returned from such episodes. This does not include the list of people who have been victims of criminalisation of seafarers.

Let me be very clear - some common threads go through all of them:-

# Most of them do not wish to be identified. The fear is as much from the long arm of the pirates, which are said to extend to within the established routes in India, to a fear of the unknown in as much as they have to content with social pressures as well as other pressures from various "authorities".

# A few have suffered tragedies - in three documented cases, the Indian seafarers have died as a direct consequence. A few more have lost their marital relationships. Yet some more are so traumatised that they are simply unable to function, leave alone go back to sea.

# The less said about support from the employers or the authorities after release, the better, because in most cases it simply does not exist. Forget compensation, even wages on service during period onboard are subject to the whims and fancies of those who would hold up full amounts due for minor clarifications.


Here, is one of the first most graphic reports on the subject, by the Master of the mv RENUAR, a Panamax bulk carrier which was following every rule in the book to keep pirates at bay - except strong citadels and armed guards.

In the Master's own words:- ""The ship was 550 miles off India, 1050 miles off the Somali coast and close to the Maldives. It was heading north on a course given to it by the UK Maritime Trade Organization’s centre in Dubai, where it had been sending daily position reports, when it ran straight into a waiting pirate mothership. Capt Caniete had been putting the crew through ant-piracy drills, the ship’s railings were covered in barbed wire and the fire hoses rigged to pump water over the side of the ship at the press of a button. Dummy watchkeepers had been rigged around the side of the ship to make it look like they had more than the 25 crew onboard. But it was not enough on a large, slow drybulk vessel with a low freeboard.""

Do take a look at the enclosed video. Some pictures are traumatic and viewer discretion advised.


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