Piracy: Not a Thing of the Past

Sep 16, 2014

The Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Douglas B. Stevenson, Director of SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, recently sat down with former hostages from the MV Iceberg 1 in Accra, Ghana to hear about their experiences and how they find life two years after release from pirate captivity. See their video interviews here.

The seafarers from the Iceberg I speak of the incidents with unambiguous detail, as if the incidents happened only yesterday. Even though the number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia has decreased since 2011, seafarers and their families continue to deal with the aftermath of hijackings. The men from the Iceberg 1 number among the over 5,000 seafarers pirates have captured and held hostage since 2007.

The men interviewed in these four videos served on board the MV Iceberg 1, a Panama-flagged cargo ship transiting near the Somali Coast in 2010. Somali pirates captured the vessel in March, and held the crew hostage under harsh conditions for nearly three years—the longest Somali pirates have ever held any crew. Seafarers recorded in these interviews speak of torture, starvation and violence.

Since their release, the seafarers have not been paid earned wages nor have they received any other compensation from their ship’s Dubai-based owner, Azul Shipping. The seafarers have survived on charity from their churches, families and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program. “These are proud, skilled seafarers,” says interviewer Douglas B. Stevenson. “They don’t want charity; they just want to go back to work.” Unfortunately, most of these seafarers have experienced difficulty in obtaining employment.

The question “What happens to seafarers after pirate attacks?” remains largely unanswered. SCI has attempted to bring this problem to light for many years. Seafarers, who have endured unspeakable torment and suffering, frequently find little help and recourse years after the incidents. How they cope with life post-piracy and what care they receive when repatriated remains largely undocumented.

To illuminate the effects of piracy on seafarers, SCI has collected stories from seafarers following incidents of piracy and published them online at Seafarer Voices: Piracy on the High Seas. The videos reveal seafarers’ strength and resilience and, for some, the challenges they encounter in returning to productive lives. Stevenson adds, “Very effective therapies exist for those seafarers who need some help following a traumatic experience, provided, however, that the appropriate assistance is made available to them.”

Watch video interviews on YouTube at http://smschur.ch/sep14voices.