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June 22, 2012

Report Analyzes Human Cost of Somali Piracy

by VOA News

A new report says Somali pirates held more than 1,200 hostages last year and that 35 of them died.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issued the report, "The Human Cost of Piracy 2011," on Friday.

The report says about 4,000 seafarers were attacked by pirates and close to 1,000 came in close contact with them as they boarded their ships. More than 1,200 people were held captive by pirate gangs last year, about half of them since 2010. Some people have been held by pirates for more than two years.

The report, written jointly by Kaija Hurlburt of One Earth Future for the NGO's Oceans Beyond Piracy project, and the IMB, says 35 hostages died last year. Eight of them were killed by pirates after being taken captive. Some died from disease or malnutrition during captivity and some were killed during rescue efforts when they were used as human shields. About half of the hostages were subject to abuse and about 10 percent were tortured. Nearly all of those released suffered psychological consequences and needed help.

Most of the hostages were natives of the Philippines, China and India. Although the number of captured hostages declined last year, the deprivation and violence they faced remained high.

The report urges government, businesses and stake holders to take the plight of captured seafarers seriously and better prepare for possible pirate attacks.

The report is based on information from the flag states of Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Panama and the Bahamas, various ship owners and operators, former hostages, and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program.

Marcel Arsenault, chairman of the One Earth Future Foundation and one of the sponsors of the report, said piracy is a systemic problem that proliferates from a failed state. He said that the desperate situation in Somalia continues to breed piracy and also exacts a huge cost on Somali society. He says the piracy will ultimately be solved only by a new global initiative to create jobs and improve governance.