by Ryan Tennant, Center for Seafarers’ Rights Intern (Charleston School of Law)
This past week, I joined the Director of the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights, Douglas B. Stevenson, on a visit to the M/V Good Pride to speak with the ship’s master. The Good Pride, a 53,000-ton Indian-flagged bulk carrier, was at Port Newark to discharge approximately 48,000 tons of cut stone.
The captain agreed to discuss his passage through the Gulf of Aden and his experiences with piracy off the coast of Somalia. He described the Good Pride's last voyage through that area. For a portion of the journey the vessel was fortunate to be part of a convoy protected by a Japanese warship. The crew, however, experienced stress and anxiety after leaving this convoy, when several suspicious local ‘fishing’ vessels approached the Good Pride as it journeyed towards the Red Sea. The captain stated that his vessel follows the maritime industry’s Best Management Practices to deter piracy; however, with a top-speed of 13 knots, the Good Pride is ill equipped to evade high-speed pirate vessels. Fortunately, it passed the smaller craft without incident.
The captain then discussed his trepidation over the recent events surrounding the detention of the Indian crew of the Asphalt Venture. A large ransom was paid for the ship, but the pirates have not released the crewmembers. This marks a dangerous departure from the ransom and release exchanges typical during incidents of Somali piracy.
After hearing about SCI's clinical study of the psychological effects of piracy, the captain encouraged the study's investigator, Dr. Michael Garfinkle, to interview Good Pride crewmembers. The next day, Dr. Garfinkle visited the ship and interviewed the captain and individual members of the crew. These seafarers were so eager to discuss their experiences that the visit culminated in a group interview in the crew’s mess. Later, Dr. Garfinkle commented that this was perhaps his most productive ship visit ever.
On Friday May 13, Mr. Stevenson and I returned to the Good Pride at the captain's invitation for lunch. With an opportunity for a relaxed and casual conversation, we discussed topics ranging from general industry practices to personal anecdotes of our various travels and experiences.
The Good Pride is due to make port next in New Haven to take on a load of iron scrap. It will briefly return to Port Newark to take on additional scrap and then depart for Escandria, Turkey. Everyone at SCI and the Center for Seafarers’ Rights wishes our new friends safe passage and fair winds.