Monday, October 25, 2010

One Year in Pirate Captivity

When it comes to being taken captive by pirates, especially those who operate off the Horn of Africa, the standard (hopeful) vision is that mariners hijacked will be freed within a few months, possibly even weeks. That is, ransoms will be negotiated by the various parties involved in an expeditious manner, as shipowners and operators do not want to see their vessels, crews and cargoes creating a strong hit on the business side of things.

It's harsh, but true, that piracy today operates - for the most part - just as it always has: As a commercial crime in which criminals gain money through illegal activities and reputable entities consider it part of doing business in the seafaring realm.

But what happens if you do not have the money of a shipping firm, ship management firm or other nautical-oriented endeavor behind you in such a situation? Well, consider - again - the case of the British couple who were kidnapped a year ago while sailing their yacht from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

Rachel and Paul Chandler were kidnapped on October 23, 2009, and have just passed their one year anniversary in the hands of Somali pirates who seized them. As recent reported, their captors are renewing demands that the couple will not be released until a "full ransom" is paid. Those same captors have also reportedly received nearly $500,000 that was collected by family, friends and supporters of the Chandlers.

Why has there not been more action on the part of the British government to secure their release? Certainly no government wants to get into the business of paying criminals for their illegal actions. Yet there is a degree of duplicity going on here, inasmuch as these same governments allow corporations, and perhaps individuals, who operate from their territories to do just that.

A numbered company based out of a mail drop in any country can transfer funds to criminal gangs in Somalia to secure the release of professional mariners. A nation can even send its military to free hostages. Seems easy to find a half million dollars from some government account that could quietly end this couple's trauma.

After a year in captivity, it would seem something's not being dealt with properly here. We're talking pocket change compared, say, to the amount of money that will be spent repairing HMS Astute after it ran aground last week.

For more on the Chandlers, there is a site set up to support them,

Rachel Chandler with a Somali doctor, January 28, 2019 (AFP photo)

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