An Indian sailor shipping on the Suez Canal route has alleged that reports of piracy incidents are being suppressed for the convenience of shipping companies.
“We stay in touch with other ships coming out of the Gulf of Aden and most of them have witnessed attacks and hijacks. In the past two months we have crossed the gulf twice and witnessed a hijacking on both occasions. So we think that the number of ships hijacked is much higher than reported. In some cases the ransom is paid promptly and in some cases not (like Stolt Valor with 18 Indians onboard). All the attacks and hijackings are taking place in the designated safe corridor for ships. IT’S LIKE TELLING THE PIRATES WHERE TO GET THEIR TARGETS,” said the sailor who wished to remain anonymous.
According to him the reports are suppressed because shipping companies would not like this route to be perceived to be too dangerous as this would drive up their insurance costs and force them to either go around the Cape of Good Hope or cross the Pacific Ocean as well as cause them problems in recruiting crews.
“Since there is an acute shortage of seafarers worldwide, this could cause chaos in the ship management industry. Seafarers who are not willing to sail through the gulf and request to be relived are often threatened with blacklisting. Moreover ship management companies are not putting anything in black and white saying they will ensure the release of the crew ASAP in case of a hijacking,” he said.
He also said shipping companies put their own ships at risk by refusing to be escorted by international naval ships in convoys. “That would require waiting at the entry to the gulf and moving at a lower speed which would all affect the schedule and result in delays. Commercial aspects seem to be more important than safety. Moreover, there would be additional costs involved in a naval escort. We were recently informed that the French Navy is offering free escort with commandos being placed on ships of any nationality. For this ship operators must contact the French Navy at least 10 days before the vessel is expected to transit. Despite this, ship operators are not opting for escorts as that would mean delays. GOING BY OUR EXPERIENCES, AT THE MOMENT NAVAL ESCORT OF SHIPS IN CONVOY IS THE ONLY SOLUTION.”