Wednesday 24 August 2011

Somalis and Seafarers.

According the Danish Per Gullestrup, CEO and partner of Clipper Ferries/RoRo, between 60 to 80% of the shipowners are in favour of arming their ships and having guards on board even when the cost can be $50.000 per passage. "We took the decision 3 to 4 months ago that we could not defend our ships without contracting-in armed guards with light machine guns and who will shoot back", continued mr. Gullestrup. " I hear that 60 to 80% of shipowners are in favour of arming their ships, which is a lot, and if you figure out that every time you do, it will cost the owner between $ 30.000 and $ 50.000 to put armed guards on each passage then you are talking about a lot of money". Mr. Gullestrup has built up first hand knowledge of dealing with pirates after he negotiated with these criminals over the release of the "CEC Future" back in 2008 when that ship was held for 71 days and only released after negotiations and the payment of nearly Dk 9.000.000. A Somali pirate now faces a 25 years prison sentence in the U.S. after he was convicted. "Despair is a good word to describe the way shipowners feel about the whole piracy issue", he said "It is a hard word but there are times in a quiet moment when you say, look what is going on there. It is 2011 and we are five years into this and we are still being run around by a bunch of criminals because that is what they are - extortionists, murders and criminals. And even the largest naval powers in the world haven't been able to do anything about it and they won't until we do something fundamentally ashore in Somalia. Until then, we will not solve this problem". "We now have the monsoon season and this will have strong reflection on the level of activities going on. But even when the monsoon settles down, I suspect you will see a lot of ships being armed now. But what will that do to the equation? Hopefully it will put a dampener  on activities but it won't solve anything. Because pirates might start to lose to much money and the investors will stop getting the returns they want, they will retrench and ease off. The naval forces will then say the situation is better and the pirates will be back in action and we will be back where we started. We as shipowners are very frustrated. If this kind of criminal activity happened anywhere else on this scale something would have been done about it but 94 % of the seafarers involved in this are from developing countries and that is the reason. If the 94 % of seafarers were from Europe or the United States, I guarantee we would not have been talking about it now. It is a disgrace" he added.                                                                                                                                     It was learned yesterday that a merchant vessel which was at anchorage off the Salalah coast of Oman, on Saturday was hijacked. This brought to light a disturbing trend wherein the Somali criminals are now attacking not only vessels sailing in the high seas but now also enter the areas near the ports to carry out their crimes. Suspected Somali pirates launched an attack on the oil tanker "MT Fairchem Bogey", at anchor off the Salalah coast. After capturing the vessel and taking its 21 Indian crew members hostage, the pirates forcibly sailed the ship towards some island off the Somali coast. Agencies and special forces have been asked to keep a watch on the vessel's movement and trace its trajectory since the hostages are not allowed to communicate with maritime agencies.                                                                                                            In the meantime, especially the Western naval forces continue to treat these criminals with velvet gloves, hand them cigarettes and fuel for their outboard engines, wave and wish them bon voyage, warning them not be be caught again, because then no more cigarettes. The West European governments are still arguing if allowing armed security guards on board the vessels of the merchant marine are not infringing some pirate's human rights. It all comes down to one thing: "Who cares about the seafarers, (either from a developing country or a western nation),  manning the ships. It are only seafarers".

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