Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Murder, Torture and Extortion - The Price of Shipping Freight In and Around the Red Sea

Yet Another Cargo Vessel Captured by the Somali Pirates
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – The news that yet another cargo ship has been seized off the Omani coast by Somali pirates means that now well over two hundred crewmen are being held to ransom after plying their trade in the waters of the Gulf of Aden and beyond. Freight, passenger and fishing vessels are all fair game to the gangs that rove the Indian Ocean, often seemingly with no concern for the authorities that routinely patrol these waters.

Better security, adherence to the Best Management Code of Practice, extreme vigilance and extra patrols coupled with a better understanding of how to avoid and deter the pirates have certainly improved the situation, attacks in November down two thirds to just twelve, evidence the improvement whilst,despite the high number of attacks overall in 2011, many of these were unsuccessful.Set against this however is the increased level of violence and inhumanity shown to the captives.

The latest vessel to be seized is the Turkish bound Enrico Ievoli, owned by Marnavi of Napoli and loaded with 16,000 tonnes of caustic soda out of the UAE. The condition of the eighteen strong crew (seven Indians, six Italians and five Ukrainians) is currently unknown, but previous Italian vessels have been released intact after reputedly paying ransoms and the company has created a website showing the current details of the vessel's whereabouts.

Many others have not been so lucky, EU Navfor, the European Naval force with responsibility for the safe passage of food aid to Somalia, issued a pre Christmas statement which focused on the humanitarian tragedy for those unfortunate enough to be captured. After explaining the average time for captives to be incarcerated after a hijacking is five months (with the longest period in captivity currently 19 months for the 24 crew members of the MV Iceberg 1, who are still being held) it continues:

“It is estimated that at least 60 merchant seamen have died as a result of their captivity in the hands of the pirates and many more have suffered torture and abuse. 49 of the 200 hostages are held without the collateral of a ship, following the ship sinking or being abandoned which means that their future is less clear as their value is seen as less than that of a ship. Additionally, a recent tactic of the criminal gangs has been to agree to the ransom payment for the return of ship and crew and then hold-back some of the crew when the ship is released to use to negotiate for the release of convicted Somali pirates from the home country of the detained crew members. Currently 4 South Korean and 7 Indian crew members from the MV Gemini and the Asphalt Venture are held following the release of the ships.”

In September we reviewed the actions being taken to ease the suffering of victims’ families as they waited anxiously for news of their loved ones. The measures being taken to reduce piracy will never stamp out the problem which requires a cohesive political solution and it is to be hoped that with the efforts of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and others 2012 may see a further reduction in the misery being wrought on innocent sailors and their loved ones.

Photo: The Shiuh Fu No.1 fishing boat, pirated Christmas Day 2010; the whereabouts of the crew of 13 Chinese, 12 Vietnamese and 1 Taiwanese mariner’s is unknown. Courtesy of EU Navfor Somalia.

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