Tuesday, January 20, 2009

MV Faina still unreleased as her crew falls ill

Somali pirates aboard the hijacked MV Faina
(all photos by USN Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)

As the Ukrainian merchant ship MV Faina remains in the hands of pirates near the Somali town of Haradhere, a local businessman tells Reuters that some of the crew has fallen ill.

Osman Farrah says that, "Rashes have appeared on their bodies, and they are suffering from diarrhoea (sic). Some have high blood pressure. We do not exactly know the disease, but we think the chemicals of the weapons on the ship have affected them." He also says that Somali doctors are to treat the captive crewmen.

Faina's crew and their captors

Last week, the captain of the Faina, Vladimir Nikolsky, spoke to AFP via satellite phone and said, "The whole of the crew has been collected in a small room for more than three months. It's a very hard psychological situation. It's hard to stay in good health." He added that, "Half of the crew is ill and the other half of the crew is going to go mad."

Whether the mariners are really falling ill due to exposure to chemicals is uncertain, and Kenyan piracy expert Andrew Mwangura thinks it may be just the fatigue of almost four months in pirate captivity. Having met mariners who have endured similar imprisonments as the crew of the Faina, I can tell you that the experience is not unlike being kept in a high security prison. Some former hostages have told me it's like a form of torture, and the experience can most definitely break a man.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, the statistics for 2008 show it to be the worst year for piracy incidents since the organization began collecting data in 1992, and there are still 1o other vessels currently being held by Somali pirates, as well as some 207 hostages.

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