Kidnapped by Pirates: Read Two Horrifying Accounts
Kidnappings by pirates are one of the worst things that can happen to any seafarer. International responses to piracy in Africa were triggered by increased kidnap and ransom. These events caused significant loss and disruption to the shipping industry and brought a significant psychological toll on those kidnapped. IMB announced that there had been no reported kidnappings in October this year. However, an event in the Gulf of Guinea on the 14th of December indicated that two Cameroon nationals were kidnapped. If true, this would be the first reported case of crew kidnapping in 2022.
They would be held there for 70 days
Despite the tragedy of even one case, the industry has seen massive achievements in preventing kidnappings. Numbers have fallen from 57 kidnappings in 2021 and 135 kidnappings in 2020. To further demonstrate how this is an achievement to be lauded and supported, this article will detail two stories of abduction by pirates.
These human stories bring life to the numbers and reports disseminated through the maritime security industry and show why it is essential that efforts are kept up to prevent kidnapping by pirates. The efforts of the everyday mariner keep world trade and vital industries running. At Palaemon Maritime, we understand that keeping these people safe is a number one priority.
Gulf of Guinea Story: MT Apecus
On the 19th of April 2019, the oil tanker MT Apecus was hijacked by pirates. Sudeep Kumar Choudhary was lying in his quarters when he heard gunshots outside the cabin. No more than 15 minutes later, pirates had boarded the vessel and taken Sundeep and six other crew members hostage. These were four other Indian crew and two Nigerian sailors. They were taken deep into the Niger Delta. They would be held there for 70 days while the ship owner, Nigerian Government and Indian Ministry of External Affairs handled negotiations with the pirates. During this time, Sundeep and his crewmates would be moved around different locations weekly to ensure their location was hidden. Beatings and psychological threats were commonplace.
A pirate holding up a skeleton and saying they would be in a similar situation
One story involved a pirate holding up a skeleton and saying they would be in a similar situation if the negotiators did not comply with demands. The crew were forced to sleep outside in the elements to add to their misery. Sundeep reported that bugs and wild animals were a constant annoyance and that he could not rest for more than 15 minutes at a time.
They were given a bowl of noodles each day to share between the five of them
On top of this, the Indian seamen were given a bowl of noodles each day to share between the five of them. Sundeep reports losing 20kg of weight during the ordeal. The Nigerian prisoners, however, got to sleep in huts with three meals a day as they were the pirate’s countrymen and were not of real value for negotiating. The last part of the story appears to be unverified. An elderly Ghanaian man appeared at the camp where the captives were held. The pirates informed the crew that negotiations were successful. However, the pirate leader became enraged, and other pirates started beating the elderly man. The leader came up to the crew and told them they had been cheated, but they were free to go.
"They were held for over 70 days...beatings and psychological threats were commonplace"
They would keep the Ghanaian man as a hostage until the rest of the ransom was paid. After being given a boat, they found a village after a few hours and were protected by the locals until help came. Sundeep was diagnosed with PTSD when he got home and vowed never to sail in the Gulf of Guinea again, but he did return to working in the maritime industry.
East Africa Story: Over Two Years Kidnapped
Whilst this story does not involve a direct kidnapping at sea, it does include pirates and emphasises the cruel conditions of abduction and the extent of power that some pirate groups have on land. Michael Scott Moore was a journalist in Berlin covering a story of ten Somali pirates being sentenced. He travelled to Somalia with a colleague to get further information on the region. After ten days of research and dropping his colleague off at the airport, Michael and his local guides were stopped by a convoy of technicals (pick-up trucks with heavy calibre weaponry on the flat bad), and 12 armed pirates beat up the crew. Michael had his belongings stolen, his glasses smashed and beaten so hard he had a broken wrist.
No contact was made for a week until the pirates demanded a $20 million ransom.
Upon being captured, no contact was made for a week until the pirates demanded a $20 million ransom. The reason for this, as Michael believes, was that US Navy Seals rescued a group of hostages not too long before he was captured, including an American, Jessica Buchanan.
Michael Scott was held captive for two and a half years
The hypothesis from Michael is that the ransom was to make up for the loss of profits from losing captives whilst simultaneously emphasising that such raids were unacceptable. Over the next two and a half years, Michael was primarily held on land with a mixture of being kept with two other hostages and held in isolation. At one point, he was held on a tuna vessel that the pirates had hijacked. He stayed with 28 other captives on this ship, mainly from South-East Asia.
Michael was kept here for four months but stated after his ordeal that some men detained there were held for over five years as ransoms were not paid. Throughout his time in captivity, there was a fear that he would be sold to Al-Shabab, where the risk of being executed was apparent. When Michael was finally released, the ransom was finalised for $1.7 million and was raised by his family, friends and companies related to his journalism work.
"He stayed with 28 other captives on this ship...some men detained there were held for over five years as ransoms were not paid".
He believes the ransom was lowered as many of the guards, with whom he had become friendly, wanted to rebel over conditions and the fact that they had held Michael for so long with no reward. It was reported that five pirate bosses and several of their men died in a shootout over what to do with the ransom money. Michael returned home having lost weight and got his wrist fixed, which had been giving him problems during his entire time in captivity. He said it took over a year to regain mental and physical strength after his ordeal.
The Bottom Line
The purpose of this article was to breathe life into the stories of kidnappings which appear in intelligence and news reports. It should reinforce the achievements of the maritime security industry, which has prevented stories like this from happening. That is not to say that kidnap and ransom have gone away completely. For example, kidnapping and ransom are still frightening prospects for people on land in Nigeria. Despite gains, the problem could come back if security efforts are not maintained. But, if the year is to end with a remarkable drop in reported kidnappings, the industry should take the chance to celebrate this achievement.
Advanced Anti-piracy Counter Measures
Razor wire alone is not an effective primary layer of defence against piracy attacks, as is evident in nearly all examples.
Anti-piracy barriers are specially designed to prevent pirates from using ladders, grappling hooks and climbing poles, and boarding ships.
Anti-piracy barriers are available to rent from Palaemon Maritime.
Click the anti-piracy barrier below to learn more.