Owners Deny Torture Claim

A claim shipowners are holding back some of the worst news about the treatment of seafarers taken hostage by Somali pirates has been denied.

The claim was made by Andrew Palmer, chief executive of UK security firm, Idarat Maritime, at a conference on piracy in London today.

Palmer is quoted as saying it was not in the interests of shipowners to make details of the physical and psychological suffering known in order to avoid alarming seafarers working on ships going through high-risk waters.

Natalie Shaw, secretary of the International Shipping Federation (ISF) which represent shipowners in labour matters, tells TradeWinds she “totally refutes” the allegation.

Shaw insists there is no evidence to substantiate the claim and that nobody, including seafarers’ unions co-operating with ISF on humanitarian concerns linked with piracy, had raised the issue with the shipowners..

Separately she and colleague John Stawpert who attended today’s conference at Chatham House said they were unaware of pirates using the water-boarding torture technique deployed by the CIA on terrorist suspects, a claim made by a researcher behind a new report into piracy published today,

The report (The Human Cost of Somali Piracy) published by the Oceans Beyond Piracy project, funded by the US-based One Earth Future foundation, illustrating the human costs of piracy, notes: “Recent reports show that some Somali pirates are turning to violent methods, including dragging hostages behind boats, beatings, forcing hostages into freezers and clamping plastic ties around hostages’ genitals.”

The ISF’s Shaw says she has not heard of any of these either but adds she cannot say they do not happen because of the confidentiality that may exist between seafarers and their company, with the former usually receiving confidential counselling after they have been released.

Pirates surrendering to the Indian navy.
A blog on Idarat Maritime’s website discussing the Oceans Beyond Piracy report says. “It is also the case that even when seamen are released they are reluctant, for a number of reasons, to reveal the full extent of their experiences in Somalia (most sign confidentiality agreements on release).”

The Oceans Beyond Piracy reports (click on the document in the “related media “column to the right) says the economic cost of piracy is “now well-known but the human cost is “less well-known and understood”..

It quotes Per Gullestrup, ceo of Denmark’s Clipper Group that has had ships and crews hijacked: “Somali piracy has a tendency to be discussed in economic terms but the real issue is the untold misery and trauma imposed on our colleagues at sea and their relatives by the Somali criminals.

“We should be very concerned about the lack of concerted action by the global community in dealing forcefully with this problem.”

The Idarat blogger also dismisses the idea proposed in the report that the “outdated” term “piracy” should be replaced by ones that “resonate with the public”, such as murder, kidnapping, physical and psychological abuse and torture, as “worthy but entirely unrealistic sentiments”.

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