The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), an international organisation, has said that seafarers should always inform their families about their routes and the dangers involved in the profession. This is because, according to sailors, it is the families that suffer the most when there is no contact with the crew of a hijacked ship for months on end.
Chirag Bahri, MPRHP regional director, said that by now, sailors know about pirate-infested routes and should take their families into confidence when they learn they are charted on such waters. ‚ÄúFamilies suffer because no news comes from a ship once it is captured. They learn nothing apart from the fact that the ship has been hijacked and the complete stoppage of information causes more stress. In such cases, it helps to cope if they at least know where their loved one was last reported to be,‚Äùexplained Mr Bahri.
Mr Bahri also suggested clearing the air with the shipping company on the routes and other unforeseen contingencies before sailing. ‚ÄúThey should rightfully solicit all the necessary information on the routes along with discussing the possibility of a hijack. This will help the sailor gauge whether the shipping firm has the financial and administrative wherewithal to pay the ransom and inform his family in case of an attack,‚Äù Mr Bahri added. A former ship captain, who now runs a logistics firm, said that only a few shipping companies wash their hands off the situation during a hijack and refuse to pay the ransom. ‚ÄúThey give the rest of the shipping firms a bad name,‚Äù he said.
About preventing attacks, Mr Bahri suggested a few measures like deploying additional lookouts when on notorious routes. ‚ÄúArmed guards, which were recently allowed on merchant ships are also effective, but only to the extent of a deterrent. Pirates normally call off the attack when they spot armed guards on the ship. However, we would do well to remember that the attackers are greater in number and will easily outgun a single guard. What will happen when the guard runs of ammunition while warding off pirates?‚Äù he asked.
Several military vessels have been deployed in the seas around Africa after Somali piracy began. They include navies of UN member nations, European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The MV Cotton, was, however, hijacked by suspected Nigerian pirates off the western African coast.