State of lawlessness
The worldwide shipping industry as well as the ITF and unions have roundly condemned the latest development in the Indian Ocean piracy crisis. The incident involves the ordeal of the Indian crew of a merchant ship, who are being held by pirates despite payment of a ransom.
The 15 crewmembers of the tanker Asphalt Venture were held following the hijack by Somali pirates on 28 September. After a ransom was paid, the ship was released on 15 April. However, six officers and one rating were forced to accompany the pirates ashore, in spite of dialogue with the owners during which it was agreed that all hostages would be released.
It has been suggested that pirates in Harardhere in Somalia decided not to honour the agreement in retaliation for the recent arrest of Somali pirates by the Indian navy.
In a statement released on 18 April, shipping industry bodies, the ITF and its affiliates the National Union of Seafarers of India and the Maritime Union of India said: “This is a fundamental change to previous practice and moves the issue from being just between the ship owner and the pirates to being between the pirates and a government. It is a major shift in the pirate-hostage equation which will need to be considered and addressed by the international community.
“Our thoughts are very much with these seafarers and their families as well as with all the other seafarers who are being held by the Somali pirates and with their families. As the state of lawlessness spirals downward in the Indian Ocean and the level of violence that pirates are prepared to use to coerce seafarers and to influence the hostage negotiation increases, this breach of the ransom agreement sets a precedent that is of the utmost concern.”