054_G17 Arena

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Arena Crime Strife on the ocean waves Far from the romanticised swashbucklers of Hollywood, modern-day maritime pirates leave victims traumatised – some are even murdered. Those who live to tell the tale are often reluctant to return to sea again Andrew Mourant The ordeal of Captain Richard Phillips, captured in waters off East Africa and held hostage by trigger-happy Somali pirates, has been witnessed by cinema goers worldwide. Based on a true story – though inevitably with a film-maker’s artistic licence – it creates a gruelling, claustrophobic world framed by hostages, for whom death beckons at any moment, and desperate, paranoid captors who are out of their depth. Through two hours of traumatic touch-and-go, we see Phillips, the dedicated family man and conscientious skipper from Vermont, USA, survive and his kidnappers gunned down by an American rescue squad. Had the outcome been the reverse, this film may not have been made and the insight of popular culture into a lawless world denied to millions. Captain Phillips is a film with the ring of truth that echoes a major report published last year: ‘The human cost of maritime piracy, 2012’. Some findings are strikingly dramatised – apprehension; tension; the captors’ fearsome mood swings. Early on we get a taste of the hopeless chaos in coastal Somalia that drives young men, often manipulated by warlords, to wreak havoc at sea. Mention modern-day piracy, and Somalia springs first to many minds. Less well known is that pirates are an endemic problem in the South China Sea; as is the situation in West African waters, where violent acts of piracy are rife. With each incident comes tales of human suffering. The report, also focusing for the first time on West Africa, gives the most comprehensive snapshot obtainable – it draws on face-to-face interviews with 13 seafarer victims, three wives, one child; and other responses from 324 seafarers representing 14 nations. Among the grim case studies was one about five seafarers and three security personnel who died in 2012 through piracy in Somalia and the Gulf of Guinea region. Nearly 80 hostages remained in captivity when the report was released, though 57 were released in 2012 and 2013. These included the surviving 22 seafarers aboard MV Iceberg I, who witnessed the deaths of two crewmates while enduring 1,000 days in captivity. The depiction in Captain Phillips of arbitrary beatings with pirates barely in control of themselves tells only a small part of the story. Reports from 2012 and 2013 showed a notable increase 54 l www.global-briefing.org first quarter 2014 global © LA( PHOT) Dave Jenkins/MOD


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