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hands and chains


WITH THANKS to Shiptalk for the following sobering and thought-provoking article:

One of the most despicable and distressing elements of the whole Somali piracy problem was the seemingly impossibility of freeing seafarers on vessels which “fell” between the mechanisms of release. Ships without insurance and which have been effectively abandoned by their owners.

In the case of the Iceberg1, twenty-two sailors were held hostage for almost three years, seemingly left to their fate with no means paying a ransom and ending the ordeal. Eventually the government of Puntland stepped in and after a two-week siege; the vessel and crew were finally freed.

These poor unfortunates had been held for longer than any other pirate hostages, and it is tremendous news that they are finally free. Most of them are now home, contemplating what happens with their lives, careers and relationships. The ordeal of Somalia may be over, but the scars will last for a long time to come.

Thankfully the Iceberg1 crew were swiftly repatriated, but the process does not always run so smoothly, and being trapped in Somalia or somewhere far from home often adds insult to injury…literally.

This is a serious issue and as such the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) are now taking it upon themselves to engage in efforts to repatriate seafarers who may otherwise be abandoned.

As for seafarers once they arrive home, things can become rather difficult. Not only are they rebuilding relationships and trying to get over the stress, fear and psychological impact of captivity, but they can often become embroiled in disputes with a range of stakeholders.

There have been legal cases brought against owners, and equally there have been times when owners have not paid salaries, etc. The repercussions of extended capture often run far and deep, and the Iceberg1 crew will also be wrestling with their demons in the own ways.

The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder are wide ranging and can cause immense damage, so too the loss of a career. Many who have suffered from pirate attacks are no longer willing to return to sea, not unsurprisingly.

It is important that all those who should assist the crew members are able to step up and make their contributions to the eventual rehabilitation of these seafarers. There are great strides being made to reduce piracy, but if the industry cannot assist and support those who have already suffered then it is to the detriment of all.

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