055_G17 Arena

Global_17

Arena Crime Richard Phillips with sailors from USS Bainbridge who rescued him from Somali pirates in mistreatment during captivity – almost all captives experienced some physical abuse, some of it extreme. Hostages were punched, pushed, slapped and burned by cigarettes. They were left up in the sun for hours, locked in freezers and had fingernails pulled out with pliers. In one case, pirates made impossible demands of their hijacked vessel and crew, causing the engine to burst into flames. While the crew worked to extinguish the fire, the vessel grounded and started flooding. As punishment, a senior crew member had his ears cut off and spent six months in solitary confinement. Alongside the bloodiest stories are others of psychological abuse and exploitation – not only of the captives but their families – for instance pirates allowing the sailors to contact home then firing shots into the air while their families were on the line. The insidious problem of ‘secondary victimisation’ takes numerous forms. In India, families have been contacted by Somali pirates asking for money to arrange for their captive loved ones to be treated better on board. Widows have been the magnet for predatory lawyers offering to ‘represent’ them – often unnecessarily – in compensation claims, offering cash advances at punitive interest rates besides siphoning off a big fee. Further tales of financial hardship include those of victims not being reimbursed for lost pay and property and having to switch careers to avoid having to return to sea. Some felt betrayed by companies that questioned their claims and failed to compensate them properly. The long-term psychological effects of falling prey to pirates have yet to be studied in detail. However, a Seamen’s Church Institute study released in 2012 found that most victims showed some form of “clinically significant disturbance”, such as concerns about returning to work, sleep loss, diminished energy and increased alcohol use. And what of the perpetrators? The actions of a tiny minority – only a handful of Somalis get much financial benefit from these crimes – create widespread misery: the deaths of innocent fishermen; others afraid to put to sea for fear of being mistaken for pirates and attacked by warships or armed guards. Some pirates, driven into this activity by gangsters, die at sea for their trouble. The perception – and reality – of Somalia being out of control has eroded an already fragile economy. Honest maritime trade, such as livestock export, has become much harder thanks to piracy. It has brought local inflation – pirates have no sense of the value of money – as well as increased drug and alcohol abuse; and more prostitution. Lawless neighbourhoods deter international support and development. Piracy in numbers 851 seafarers confronted by Somali pirates with firearms in 2012 (down 78% from 2011) 5 people killed by Somali pirates in 2012 31 people killed by Somali pirates in 2011 15 people killed by Somali pirates in 2010 78 hostages in captivity in June 2013 US$674-939 million: direct cost of West African piracy (estimate) 11 months: average duration hostages are held for There is, though, some better news – increased naval protection. Onboard armed guards and better all-round preparation by the shipping industry helped reduce the numbers attacked by Somali pirates by 78 per cent during the reporting period. But off West Africa, where oil-carrying ships are prime targets, piracy is increasing, though under-reporting means that the full extent – and impact – is far from fully understood. What is clear is that pirates attack fishermen so frequently that many now fear going to sea. Gulf of Guinea countries have abundant firearms in circulation from their various wars. Vessels hijacked by West African pirates are held, on average, only for four days – pirates are more intent Tales of financial hardship include those of victims not being reimbursed for lost pay and property, and having to switch careers to avoid having to return to sea on stealing cargo than a ransom. Often, though, they are violent. Arranging armed-guard protection for oil-carrying ships means having to abide by laws dictating that all armed guards be recruits from local security forces. Many piracy victims are driven to find another job, however hard that may be. But not all: as the film credits roll, we learn that Captain Phillips eventually resumed his career at sea. “Fortunately, seafarers are a resilient group,” the report says. Some have reported feeling stronger after the experience – “better prepared for anything similar in the future”. One took pride in how he had handled himself during the attack, “one thing I’m proud of about myself”. Another, having survived the fright of his life, spoke of “a significant change in me… I want to relax – I am calm right now”. However grotesque the ordeal, for some, the outcome of piracy has been a quiet, heroic inner strength coming to the fore. Andrew Mourant is a freelance journalist whose specialisms include international business and renewable energy global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 55


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