The Forgotten Hostages

The plight of a ship’s crew held hostage for more than two and half years has become a “scar on the conscience of the shipping industry”.

Abandoned at sea – the forgotten hostages of the Somali pirates

By Colin Freeman, The Telegraph

SHE set sail from Aden in the spring of 2010, the start of a long journey that should have seen her deliver a cargo of electrical equipment to England. Then, barely ten miles out to sea, the Iceberg 1 suffered a fate all too predictable for a slow-going cargo craft in the Gulf of Aden: she was hijacked by Somali pirates.

Unlike the scores of other vessels snared there in recent years, though, no ransom has been forthcoming to free her crew of 24, nor has a foreign navy tried to rescue them. Instead, nearly two and a half years later, they are still in captivity on the high seas – seemingly abandoned by the ship’s owners, and with the dubious distinction of being the longest hijack case in modern maritime history.

Conditions on board are believed to be dire, with the crew kept huddled in a small room with only limited access to food and water. Many have complained that they are being driven mad by their ordeal, and for at least one, it already appears to have proved too much. In October 2010 the ship’s Yemeni third officer, Wagdi Akram, committed suicide by jumping overboard, apparently unhinged from stress. At least one other sailor, a Ghanaian, is also believed to have died – whether by his own hand, or by that of his pirate captors remains unclear. It is understood that the ship’s freezer is now being used as a makeshift morgue.

“The sailors’ plight is now on the conscience of everyone in shipping,” one shipping industry figure told The Sunday Telgraph. “The ordeal for the crew and their families is just unimaginable, yet there doesn’t seem to be anybody coming to their aid.”

The Iceberg 1 is one of several long-running hijackings on the Indian Ocean, and a stark reminder that despite reports earlier this month that the pirates’ activities are finally being curbed, some 177 hostages……[access full article]

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