We have crossed the threshold of a new year, but one issue may continue to haunt shippers in 2011: the scourge of global piracy.
According to the International Chamber of Commerce, (ICC) over 500 seafarers – of many different nationalities – are currently being held hostage by Somali pirates.
“In fear for their safety, and even of their lives, and deprived of contact with their families, these seafarers have also suffered the trauma of having their ships attacked with automatic weapons, prior to being kidnapped for ransom,” said the ICC. “Many have been held captive for several months, often in the most appalling conditions, by armed criminals who can be violent and unpredictable.”
As we have noted in this blog before, merchant seafarers are too often out of sight and out of mind. It is vital that the international community focuses on the plight of those held in Somalia, as well as the tens of thousands of ships’ crew who keep the supply chain strong and resilient.
The ICC observed that there has been an unprecedented degree of cooperation among the world’s military navies, whose dedicated personnel are seeking to provide protection to merchant shipping. But the number of navy ships available is simply insufficient to prevent vulnerable ships from being attacked. Moreover, 85 percent of those pirates pursued and captured end up being released, only to reoffend with impunity. The risk/reward ratio is still far too much in the pirates’ favor.? ?
“A few months ago there was an incredible global response to plight of the miners trapped in Chile,” said the ICC. “The 500 seafarers, held hostage in Somalia, are also isolated and terrified, and deserve similar recognition from the media and the public at large.”
Since January 2008, over 2,600 seafarers have been held hostage by Somali pirates. Additional information is published by the ICC International Maritime Bureau, which does an excellent job collecting statistics and information about piracy attacks on behalf of the global shipping industry.