Support for crew hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea

support pic4The crew of one of the released ships meet Alexander Dimitrevich (left), MPHRP’s Regional Director for Ukraine & Russian speaking countries.

A tanker was hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea on August 28th 2012. The tanker, loaded with 50,000 tonnes of gas oil, was anchored for 2 weeks not far from Lome, Togo with 22 Russian crew and a Greek Master.

They were brave and strong but, once released, the crew needed someone they could speak with, someone who could understand their hardship, anxieties and feelings during captivity and someone who could help them during their time of re-adaptation to shore life.

A crew member relates that “We were an easy target and we knew that a week before a British vessel had been captured by pirates not far from there. So at 1:30am the vessel was boarded by 12 pirates who came to the vessel by 4 speedboats. We heard a radio announcement inviting us to come to the bridge and when we came there we saw pirates armed with AK-47s”.

From the moment the pirates came onboard, they put pressure on the crew by shouting and beating them with gun buts. “I died and survived dozens of times in my mind” said a seafarer, “One of the most shocking moments was when a Togo military vessel approached the tanker to ‘assist’ and opened fire on the vessel.

Pirates lined up the crew along the side of the vessel as a human shield, but it did not stop the military and they kept firing as enthusiastically, as pirates returned the fire. We fell on the deck and thought that was it, the end.” The Master was on the bridge and commanded ‘Full Ahead’, and at maximum speed the tanker managed to disengage from the ‘friendly forces’ and flee as the military vessel followed the pirates’ speedboats.

“They threatened to shoot us for every trifle matter,” said one of the crew, with jibes such as “Food is not spicy or salted enough, I kill you”, and when the crew insisted they had no chili pepper “Show me the box where you keep the peppers and if I find one cayenne or chili, I kill you.” The seafarer continued, “Luckily the pirate did not find any chili in the box but after the vessel had been released I checked this box and to my horror found one small chili pepper at the bottom and became sweaty as it could have cost me my life. I hung the pepper as a reminder in my cabin.”

One day, under the influence of drugs, a captor played with his AK-47, accidentally pulling the trigger and a ricochet bullet wounded a young cadet in his knee: “At first I didn’t realise what had happened and didn’t even feel the pain. One of my colleagues gave me first aid and now I need complicated surgery as I still have bullet fragments in my leg”.

Many of the shipping companies treat their crew well and in this situation MPHRP helped the shipping company to look after the crew after their release, including making payments for surgery on the cadet’s knee. MPHRP continues to be in regular contact with the crew and their families and is helping as and when they need further assistance.

Read 1115 times Last modified on Thursday, 12 January 2017 12:28