While the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia has received significant coverage over the past 4 years, with the exception a number of high-profile individuals, the fate of the merchant crews which make up the majority of those held hostage, is not often considered or reported.Photos and captions are from EU NAVFOR.
This humanitarian tragedy is especially pertinent over Christmas, a time when families normally gather to celebrate.
There are currently 199 men and one woman held hostage in Somalia following the pirating of their ships in the Indian Ocean and all are being held against their will to be used by criminal gangs as part of a ransom business. Since the start of the EU NAVFOR counter-piracy mission in December 2008, a total of 2317 merchant seamen have been held hostage for an average of nearly 5 months. The longest period in captivity is 19 months for the 24 crew members of the M/V ICEBERG 1, who are still being held.
The Shiuh Fu No.1 fishing boat, pirated Christmas Day 2010; the whereabouts of the crew of 13 Chinese, 12 Vietnamese and 1 Taiwanese mariners is unknown
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 M/V GEMINI and the ASPHALT VENTURE are held following the release of the ships.
The PRANTALAY 12 fishing boat, pirated 18 April 2010 and beached on 14 July 2011. 5 of the crew died in captivity, 1 is missing and 4 remain in Somalia following the release of the remainder.
Today, there are 3 ships abandoned and derelict on the beach, creating a source of potential pollution, whilst their crews, totalling 54 men, remain in captivity.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
European Union Naval Force Somalia - Operation Atalanta | Merchant ship crews held hostage in Somalia: