Monday, 13 June 2011

The Human Cost of Piracy

Strong evidence that over a third of the seafarers that were held in 2010 were abused

Per Gullestrup, C.E.O. of the Clipper Group says, “Somali piracy has a tendency to be discussed in economic terms, but the real issue is the untold misery and trauma imposed on our colleagues at sea and their relatives by the Somali criminals. We should be very concerned about the lack of concerted action by the global community in dealing forcefully with this problem.”

The world has long evaluated Somali piracy in mainly economic terms. Now comes a report from ‘The Oceans Beyond Piracy’ project, Titled, “The Human Cost of Somali Piracy,” the report, recently released in London, says that during 2010:

• 4,185 seafarers were attacked with firearms and rocket propelled grenades.
• 342 seafarers were rescued from citadels (ships’ reinforced security rooms).
• 1,090 seafarers were taken hostage.
• 516 seafarers were used as human shields.
• As many as 488 seafarers were subjected to abuse or torture.

The project also says that underreporting and misunderstandings contribute to ignorance in the general public on the extent and depth of abuse of seafarers, and that both successful and unsuccessful attacks expose seafarers to dangerous experiences with the potential for long-term physical and psychological trauma, whether the attack is successful or not. If taken hostage, seafarers routinely face physical and psychological violence ‘for months on end, limited access to food and water, uncertainty about their fate and risk of death. 

Unfortunately, there is no single source available to inform seafarers or the general public of how seafarers are treated during captivity, or how widespread abusive tactics are among the various pirate gangs’. Verification of reports is also difficult, the report adds, while indicating that all criminal activities come under one heading, “hijack”. “This limited categorisation of pirate activities undervalues the dangers and trauma faced by seafarers”, Oceans Beyond Piracy says.

“There is very little reporting of the personal violence against seafarers in the waters off Somalia”, says Kaija Hurlburt, lead researcher for the OBP study. “We have found strong evidence that over a third of the seafarers that were held in 2010 were abused, and the trend is looking more ominous this year. The lack of reporting prevents the true cost from being understood by the public.”

Thousands of seafarers have been subjected to gunfire, beatings, extended periods of confinement, torture and, in some cases, murder in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden at the hands of Somali criminals. US Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro said in March this year, “The attacks are more ruthless, more violent, and wider ranging. Hostages have been tortured and used as human shields.”

It is becoming clear that mariners deserve to know the full extent of the risks they face when transiting pirate infested waters. One seafarer from the ‘UBT Ocean’, held for four months during which the crew were repeatedly tortured and abused, is quoted as saying, “All the seafarers must be fully aware of the danger and risk in crossing the Indian Ocean.”

(The full report HERE , at the Ocean's Beyond Piracy site)

1 comment:

  1. More than 31 000 people dies annyally due to injury by firearms - in the US only! In the category 15-24 years it represents 21% of all deaths (2007). Put in that light the human cost for sea farers caused by crime is probably not bigger than the human cost for bus drivers for the same, on a world scale.