The ITF has called on Panama to join the effort to help the recently released crew of the Iceberg 1 to recover from their hostage ordeal. The seafarers on the Panama-flagged vessel were held for nearly three years by Somali pirates – who subjected them to torture, starvation and even mutilation – before being released in gun battles last month.
The 22 hostages (the chief officer is still missing and another seafarer committed suicide during his captivity), have now been helped home. They are in urgent need of help with rebuilding their lives. Many have medical problems.
ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel explained: “There is a good understanding across the shipping industry of just how much these seafarers and their families have suffered over the last three years, and it’s no surprise that some people in the industry have offered financial support. However, we’d particularly like the flag state, which in this case is Panama, to join them and us in sponsoring this relief effort.”
He continued: “It is unfortunate that the flag state has not discharged its duty of care set out by the IMO to these seafarers during their captivity, even though they were serving on a vessel flying its flag. There is now an opportunity for it to contribute to their support and rehabilitation.”
He concluded: “The cruel and barbaric treatment meted out to these mariners must serve as a constant reminder of why pirates have to be fought, pursued and prosecuted.”
The Iceberg 1 had been held since March 2010. All the crew were subjected to torture and starvation. The shipowner, Azal Shipping of Dubai, had left the vessel uninsured when it was captured. It paid no wages throughout either to the seafarers or their families.