Mozambique: Vega 5 Survivors Still Without Compensation

Maputo ‚Äî The Mozambican survivors of the ‚ÄúVega 5‚Äù fishing ship, which was hijacked by Somali pirates in December 2010, are continuing to demand compensation for their ordeal, reports Tuesday’s issue of the Beira daily paper ‚ÄúDiario de Mocambique‚Äù.

The “Vega 5” was owned by the Beira-based fishing company, Pescamar. The 12 Mozambican survivors say that the company has compensated the foreign crew members (three Indonesians and two Spaniards), but has ignored the Mozambicans.

A pirate gang seized the “Vega 5” in the Mozambique Channel on 27 December and took it northwards to the Somali coast. They then turned it into a pirate mother ship used to tow and to refuel the skiffs used by the pirates to attack merchant shipping.

In March 2011 Indian anti-piracy naval vessels caught up with the “Vega 5” and in the ensuing exchange of fire, drums of fuel stored on deck were hit, and the “Vega 5” caught fire. The battle took place at night, and in the darkness, pirates and the kidnapped crew members jumped into the water from the blazing ship.

The Indian vessels rescued 12 of the 19 Mozambican crew members from the water. The other seven were lost at sea, presumed drowned.

Over three years later, the Mozambican survivors are still pressing their case for compensation. They point out that Pescamar paid the ransom demanded for the two Spanish crew members, who were held hostage in Somalia.

“We went on the same boat to the same job at sea”, pointed out a representative of the survivors, Joao Mandava. “When the problem happened, the company preferred to look after some and leave others to their fate. To what do we owe this discrimination?”

Another survivor, Lucas Gemo, told the paper that Pescamar should have ransomed the Mozambicans, just as it ransomed the Spaniards, “in order to avoid the suffering we went through after the hijacking”.

Instead, the Mozambicans were forced to work for the pirates for more than two months. Even when they were rescued their problems were not over – the Indians at first assumed the Mozambicans were pirates too, beat them up, and handcuffed them.

Since their return to Beira the survivors have been trying to negotiate compensation with Pescamar, in meetings mediated by the Sofala Provincial Directorate of Labour but without any success.

Mandava said that the director of Pescamar, Felisbero Manuel, told them to apply to the government for compensation, because “the sea belongs to the State”. He said that the company was also a victim, since it had lost one of its vessels.

The survivors have now taken their case to the office of Sofala governor, Felix Paulo. They have presented their case and are waiting for a reply.

Pescamar is a Mozambican-Spanish joint venture, in which the dominant partner is the Spanish company Pescanova.


Original Article