A program to help seafarers and families cope with the physical and mental trauma caused by torture and abuse at the hands of pirates launches today in London, England. Pirates are routinely using extreme brutality and the threat of death against seafarers and their relatives. The new Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program (MPHRP) is intended to help those seafarers and their families cope with the resulting pain and anguish.
Funded by the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) Seafarers’ Trust charity and The TK Foundation, and chaired by Peter Swift, formerly MD of industry body INTERTANKO, the new program speaks for an alliance of shipowners, trade unions, managers, manning agents, insurers and welfare associations representing the entire shipping industry, from crews to owners.
Its mission is to aid seafarers who have been or may be subject to pirate attack. Somali-based pirates now regularly treat hostage seafarers with extreme violence in order to put pressure on their families and/or employers to expedite their ransom demands. This includes phoning family members and making the seafarer plead for his life while he is abused and threatened with death, and filming this and posting it online for relatives to see.
Peter Swift, MPHRP chair, explained: “Piracy is reaching an all-time high: in the number of incidents, in the vast ransoms demanded and, most of all, in the extreme violence used. The treatment meted out to the victims now frequently crosses the line from savagery into torture.”
“The effects are potentially horrendous,” he continued. “For those, say, who successfully resisted capture but were nearly burnt alive in the room in which they barricaded themselves; for the brutalised hostages; and for those who daily put to sea in fear that it may at any time happen to them. And that’s not to forget the families, who are now firmly on the pirates’ target list.”