Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tales of The High Seas: Modern Piracy

Here are exerpts from two men's tales of being hostages at the hands of modern pirates. Both men were aboard the Switzer-Korsakov when it was boarded and were recently ransomed by the ship's Dutch owner.

69 year old Fred Pearle told the Irish Independant he thought they were all about to die as the pirates attacked.

"I lay there thinking we were all dead meat. I said a few prayers and left it to the man above," he said. Back home in Sligo yesterday, Fred recalled being on watch at 4pm on February 1 when the hellish ordeal began. We were 85 miles off the coast of Somalia, 15 miles beyond the recommended distance and I was heading up to the bridge when I heard someone shouting 'We're being attacked'. "Then I heard someone say 'There's one of them on board'."

70 year old Colin Darch told the Telegraph that:

Someone shouted that they were aboard," said Mr Darch. "They were firing guns. We then shut down the ship. "We were told that if we behaved no one would get hurt, but if we did something wrong, we would be shot." The four Russian crew members were ordered to lie down but Mr Darch and his Irish engineer, Fred Parle, 68, were needed to sail the ship. A day and a half later, Mr Darch was made to anchor close to the village of Eyl."They wanted money and said the tug had been hijacked for ransom," said Mr Darch, who maintained daily contact with the boat's owners, Svitzer, in Copenhagen. "We could see they were not religious or political and they told us they had to rob to survive."

During the 47 day ordeal the two described the conditions they faced:

"I was fair game. I wasn't allowed use my sleeping cabin and it was trashed. My property was stolen. I slept on the steel deck on the bridge but you can get used to anything," he said. Food was scarce and they were never left alone. Daily messages via satellite kept them in touch with life back home. "We depended on each other for survival. We knew we had to have patience. "We got to know each others faults and strengths with danger and destruction as our common bond," he said.

Mr Darch said an American warship intervened at one stage but could not attack in case it hit the crew.He said: "We decided to try and help by blacking out the ship and hiding in a stern compartment behind watertight doors, in the hope the American crew would get the message and attack."We retreated to a ballast tank partly full of water and spent 18 hours in there, but the attack didn't happen. After 19 hours we gave ourselves up.

"They didn't punish us but they kept a much closer eye on us."

Finally, on St. Patrick's Day the two men were ransomed with the other 4 members of their crew and now are finally home.

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