The Human Cost - why cruising sailors should avoid pirate zones

Pirates of Puntland
.. .
Last week the last cruising sailors in the hands of Somali pirates were released. Italian/South African Bruno Pelizzari and South African Deborah Calitz had been in the hands of pirates for 20 months, and their haggard looks on release gave clue to the difficult conditions that they survived. Not all Somali hostage do, and the recently published statistical report paints a harrowing picture.

The Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) Human Cost of Piracy 2011 report has revealed some statistics that the yachting community, whose most gung-ho members are still threatening to enter the zone, should take note of.

Summary of the Report:
The report initially assessed crimes committed by pirates in 2011 in what it calls the High Risk Area. According to the report, in 2011 3,683 seafarers were assaulted by pirates during the initial stages of an attack, and 968 seafarers came in close contact with armed pirates aboard their vessels.

Of the 1,206 individuals who were held captive by pirate gangs, 555 were attacked before being taken hostage, and 645 had been captured in 2010 and remained in pirate hands in 2011. And, of these latter hostages, 123 have been held for over one year, and 26 for over two years.

The report continues by revealing that

• 35 hostages died in 2011:
• 8 were killed by pirates during the attack or after being taken captive
• 8 died from disease or malnutrition caused by lack of access to adequate food, water, and
medical aid
• 19 died during rescue efforts by naval vessels or attempting to escape, the majority of
which were being used as human shields by the pirates

In no way an attempt to scaremonger, knowledge of the report and its findings, which goes on to discuss the unacceptable conditions hostages are subject to, are pertinent to ensuring all sectors of the maritime industry remain aware of the threats, and remain in the best possible position to avoid them.

The report later went on to reveal the terrible conditions of pirate hijacks

• All hostages faced the risk of violence day upon day and a range of inhumane treatment
in violation of their basic human rights, including the right to life, liberty, and security of
• At least three seafarers from the 23 reporting vessels died after release as a direct result of
their treatment during captivity.
• All crews were subject to restricted freedom of movement and privacy in addition to living
under constant threat of physical and psychological abuse.
• The reports indicate that the living, hygiene and sanitary conditions onboard the hijacked
ships declined rapidly and remained deplorable throughout captivity.
• The main triggers of physical and psychological abuse appeared to be:
• Pirates’ basic ignorance in the workings of a ship,
• A break down or slow progress in negotiations,
• Disagreements among the hostages, and
• Better treatment to some crews in exchange for information on the others.
• The report does not take into account the stress, fears, and the day-to-day deterioration in
standards of living of the family members of the captive crews.
• Half of all hostages in 2011 were subject to moderate abuse by captors including punching,
slapping, or pushing hostages. 10% of hostages suffered severe abuse which included being
tied up in the sun for hours, being locked in a freezer, or having fingernails pulled out with
• Nearly all hostages were in some form affected psychologically. While many were able to
cope after they were released, there was some needing more help.
• Due regard has been given to the sensitivities of the identities of the crews, vessels, owners,
operators, and other parties involved in each hijacking case; hence the report only provides
aggregate information on the treatment towards the hostages.

Adrian McCourt of Watkins Superyachts shared with!Superyacht_News what the superyacht industry (and all cruising sailors) could take from the report: 'I would say that nobody should sail a yacht in the high risk areas. Freedom of the seas is utter nonsense.

'Coalition and non-coalition forces cannot protect seafarers. They can deter with a physical presence but are powerless to act with violence since they are not at war. Pirates, despite their actions, are civilians and cannot by law be shot by anyone’s armed forces.

'If you have to get your yacht across the area and you are not big enough to harden, comply with BMP4 or carry guards, then either book it as deck cargo or leave it where it is.'

ISAF the International Sailing Federation, and all authorities charged with protecting merchant shipping against piracy, suggest in the strongest possible terms that no cruising sailors should enter the pirate zone of the Indian Ocean, which has been growing every year in size.

To download a copy of the Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) Human Cost of Piracy 2011 report please!click_here.