Thursday, November 20, 2008

Distress Calls at the Horn of Africa

A Thailand flag flying boat is heading from Oman to Yemen loaded with goods humanity needs. And suddenly, they were being chased by two speedboats. They sent a distress call to Sirichai Fisheries Co., Ltd.; but the message was cut off midway. Mayday! Mayday! . . . A distress call may not have completed, at least three times, to emphasize the urgency of the call. The pirates might have already boarded. As it was, Somali pirates have boarded and seized the vessel and the crew were held hostage at gun point.

This was the statement of Wicharn Sirichaiekawat, manager of the Thai fishing company that operates the “Ekawat Nava 5,” which was the latest ship held hostage by Somali pirates, last Tuesday, base on AFP report. And another, a Hong Kong cargo ship, The Delight, carrying tons of wheat, was also hijacked by Somali Pirates on the same date. And another supertanker, a Ukrainian ship, loaded with heavy weapons and assorted ammunitions that may fall in the hands of terrorists’ organizations . . . and another much heavier supertanker, “the Sirius Star, with a capacity of 2 million barrels of crude oil, was hijacked by Somali pirates Saturday, some 450 miles (725 kilometers) off the Kenyan port of Mombasa”. . . and maybe more!

The hijacking incidents perpetuated by the Somali pirates have gone out of control. How many more ships or cargo vessels will fall in the hands of these modern-day-ransom-hungry pirates before an all-out and final action can be effected? These pirates have inflicted too much harm on sea-plying vessels which resulted too much tragedy the world should not overlook. These ships, transporting goods and services to the needy and doing fair and legal jobs are always intimidated at gun point –helpless to depend her selves. What is the International Maritime Bureau doing? Why can’t the UN Security Council condemned the Somalian criminal activities. Piracy is the thing of the past and in our modern day world, international irritation should not stay long as an ugly misdeed of the few. A concerted international action can be swiftly undertaken to avoid further economic impairment. UN should authorize the use of force against these gangs as they can be considered terrorists and deserve utmost punishment. Somali pirates are only handful criminals victimizing the world’s seafaring nationals and this should not happen as a day-to-day threat in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes. The maritime authorities should act with dispatch to avert a more disastrous event.

I am seriously concerned as I am a Filipino. Majority of the crew victims are Pinoy. There are 134 total numbers of Filipino seafarers currently in Somali pirates’ hands and since the beginning of the year, 39 ships have been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden –in the Somali Peninsula considered as the “Horn of Africa,”- out of 95 attacked according to GMA news. Many of international seafaring lines are manned by Filipinos and more and more families are dependent on maritime industries for a living. If their means of livelihood will be always exposed in grave and imminent danger, what future aspirations will they be in . . . an added burden to society? Or an added number to the poor, patronizing poverty?

Where is the world going? A handful of criminals holding the civilized-spaced-age-world hostage while they maintain their sumptuous lifestyles and a yearly $30m lucrative business! Oh! What a great shame to humanity!

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