Click the graphic to go to DAWN.COM article

In the onslaught of piracy news that flows over us, I - like many of you, perhaps - tend to get lost in the river of reports, and stop seeing the human cost each one represents. 

I've tried to do my bit - and a very small bit it has been, too - to extend general awareness of the MV ICEBERG 1 tragedy (click "Iceberg 1" in the Categories column at the right of this page). But the frustrating fact is that while I sit comfortably at my computer men are suffering, even dying. It's very hard to get beyond our own skins and really appreciate anything much outside our own personal orbits.

The graphic above is from the International Maritime Bureau, but I found a good rundown of the basic conclusions on DAWN.COM -  click on the graphic above to read that article. A few key quotes: 

"The number of prisoners taken by pirates fell to 555, at least, in 2011 from 645 in 2010"

"While solid data on previous years is limited, the total of 35 (deaths) is seen as by far the highest number of piracy-related fatalities in a single year."

“We know these figures are almost certainly an underestimate,” project manager Kaija Hurlburt told Reuters. “A lot of the ships now being taken are regional dhows that are often never reported. They might have 12 to 20 people aboard each time.”

"With some shipowners apparently simply abandoning their vessels and crews, particularly the smaller more vulnerable craft, crews have found themselves held for ever longer periods."

And finally, this: "As more and more merchant ships carry armed guards, foreign navies take tougher action and some shipowners prove unable or unwilling to pay up, some believe piracy itself is getting harder – and that is being taken out on those in captivity." (Emphasis mine)

Here is a link to the full report: Human Cost Of Piracy Updated Report Released 

The Southwest Monsoon season has begun, as detailed in this report from Thomas Miller: "Weather conditions during the monsoon season will likely reduce the number of pirate attacks; however, pirates will continue to operate when and where weather conditions permit."

So we can hope that the tempo will slow over the next few months; but that will mean nothing to the men now held captive. 

Click graphic to go to gCaptain story
Here is another view of the statistics, featured on gCaptain (or click the graphic for the same story); I won't recap their analysis here, as gCaptain's Mike Schuler has done an excellent job. Click on over and have a look, as he has highlighted several salient points that we should bear in mind.

And here is a link to a video about a forthcoming film that will illuminate the hostage issue:
I'm sure that the cost of piracy is something most of us can't truly appreciate unless it has happened to us or to someone we love. The cost goes far beyond the billions of dollars calculated by shipping companies. The real cost can only be calculated by those who have experienced it, or by their families. Sound like a truism? My frustration comes from the contrast between the world I live in - a relatively sane, safe world - and the world I know the captives are living every day - a world of fear, pain and death. 

To most folks, the world of the seaman is closed. It's a world lived apart from what most people know. Our terms of reference, even our lingo (and I'm limited to the seamen's language in English) is closed to the world at large. But to us, it's the world! It's our world, as real and human as any other. Our families participate in that world. It's our reality.

Have you any experience - whether direct, or through a family member or friend - of piracy? Can you tell us something we need to know, if we're to deal with it more effectively? Please comment!

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