Crews are demanding to leave vessels about to transit the region if the owner has not been prepared to put a security detachment on board.
One Swedish officer who recently stepped off a vessel about to transit the region told Lloyd’s List, on conditions of anonymity, that he was fearful for his life.
He was working on a slow vessel with a very low freeboard and the European shipowner had decided not to spend money on hiring a security detachment despite doing a risk assessment.
The shipowner comes from a European flag state that has made it clear that armed security is permitted under the right circumstances.
The vessel the officer worked on board, and hopes to return to in a few weeks, is run by a company that had never had to send a vessel through the piracy risk zone. The risk assessment was done too late, and with a predetermined conclusion, the officer claims.
The company, possibly short of money, according to the officer, desperately needed to send the vessel to its destination to secure income for it and was therefore prepared to take the risks with the crew’s lives.
While piracy incidents over the last three years have rarely led to the deaths of seafarers, recent developments are making crews more fearful of this outcome.
The officer said that western, particularly caucasian, crews are more fearful for their lives given the increased levels of violence being shown, the increased risk of being removed from the captured ship and held ashore, and recent incidents where Somali gangs have captured European nationals in Kenya and taken them to Somalia.
When Calixto Caniete, master of the fully laden 1993-built Renuar returns to sea and has to sail through the piracy risk zone in the west Indian Ocean, he will only do so with armed security on board. He is also advising other seafarers to make the same demands.
International Maritime Organization secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos said the refusal of crews to transit the region was one of his four worse case scenarios of escalating piracy, along with a cruiseship being boarded, a captured laden tanker causing an environmental disaster and the increased impact of piracy on economic trade.