“500 people held for ransom from third world countries is apparently not newsworthy!”
Anglo Eastern CEO Peter Cremers has, in his inimitable style, criticised the industry for its media handling of the longstanding piracy menace. Commenting on the release of the two British citizens Paul and Rachel Chandler from captivity in Somalia a year of being taken by pirates off their yacht, Cremers said he was extremely happy to hear the news but would like to see the media showing the same kind of response over ‘commercial kidnappings’.
“I am extremely happy for Paul and Rachel Chandler to be finally released by their Somali pirates after so many months. I am a bit of a yachtie myself – which adds to the understanding of how close a nightmare can be from heaven. Their happy faces all over the news, worldwide, was the kind of news that makes a day a good one.”
However, Cremers went on to pointedly add, “But – hang on – was it not within the same fortnight that one or two commercial ships were released from captivity – each with 20 odd people on board?” He was obviously referring to the overwhelming media coverage of the Chandlers release and comparing that response to the silence that rules when pirates release seafarers and their ships.
“Are we shipping professionals just amateurs in playing the public?” he asked, going on to point out that the industry has not managed, so far, to get the media on their side. “Have we managed to get one cameraman on board a just-released ship, to see for ourselves – and show the world – the physical and psychological damage caused by the piracy? Have we managed to get a cameraman and show the world the home-coming of fathers and husbands somewhere in India, Philippines or China – much to the relief of so many family members depending on their income?”
“Are we getting Governments and their diplomats involved to make things happen, as was so successfully demonstrated by the Chandlers?”
Mr Peter Cremers was subtly biting on the industry’s seeming failure to manage the electronic media or and press so that the issue that the maritime industry has been facing over the last so many years could be highlighted, and so get public and political attention. “Can we imagine-just for a minute- what would happen in case of the hijacking of a plane in Somalia for ransom – with 20 people on board? It would be on CNN and BBC news within 30-60 minutes.”
However, as he sardonically commented, “500 people held for ransom from third world countries is apparently not newsworthy!”
“In the shipping industry we have, on average, up to 500 seafarers held hostage for up to 6 months – and all we seem to be told is to learn to live with piracy and try to outsmart them”, Cremers said. “Is it because insurance companies help ease the problem? Or because most of the crews are from developing countries, therefore any media interest is minimal? We saw what happened when an American ship was hi-jacked – suddenly massive interest from the media, hero worshipping for the Captain, intervention of US Navy ship using maximum force and so on.” Cremers continued.
Cremers feels that the maritime industry needs to do whatever it takes to get the attention of the media, because only then might it see some political support. “We need to be all over the media – get them on board to help us get rid of piracy. At the right time, without endangering any of our seafarers, we need to get them witnessing the drama and suffering caused by piracy.”
In an obvious reference to the business that has sprung up around piracy- including in many Western nations, Cremers added, “We are now supporting a piracy industry – at both sides of the conflict – from pirates to negotiators to armed guards to cash suppliers – and we have to stop this before it considered as an integral part of conducting our business.”
Tongue in cheek, the Anglo Eastern CEO concluded, “Maybe we can use the Chandlers as our ‘get rid of piracy’ Ambassadors, spearheading an international awareness campaign. Since we professionals can’t manage to solve the piracy issue on our own - let’s ask the ‘yachties’ for help!”