With the tragic loss of life this past week in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin, the discussion has turned once again to the question of whether cruising sailors can depend on the U.S. Navy for protection in hopes of preventing another tragedy. Perhaps cruising sailors will unite in support of one another to urge the Military to be more pro-active.
Recapping the Story:
On Friday, February 18th, Jean Adam, a retired dentist, and Scott Adam, 68, a retired filmmaker from California, as well as crewmates Phyllis Mackay, from San Francisco, and Bob Riggle, 67, a retired veterinarian from Seattle, were seized by Somali pirates while sailing on the vessel The Quest. The Adams, Mackay and Riggle had been traveling with yachts participating in the Blue Water Rally since their departure from Phuket, Thailand, rally organizers said Sunday on the event’s website. The group, which organizes long-distance group cruises, said the Quest broke off on February 15 after leaving Mumbai, India, to continue on their circumnavigation alone.
The couple, along with their crew, were all found dead from gunshot wounds aboard the Quest by U.S. forces early Tuesday morning. (Read prior post).
The yacht was being shadowed by the military after pirates took the ship off the coast of Oman on Friday.
A statement from Blue Water Rallies on Tuesday called the four “brave adventurers. “We at Blue Water Rallies are stunned and devastated by the news of the loss of four friends who have had their innocent lives taken away from them by the pirate menace which is plaguing the Indian Ocean,” it said.
U.S. President Barack Obama was notified early Tuesday of the deaths, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Obama had a briefing on the situation over the weekend and authorized the use of force against the pirates in the event of an imminent threat to the Americans’ safety, he said.
The United States “strongly condemns the murder of four U.S. citizens,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement, adding, “This deplorable act firmly underscores the need for continued international progress toward confronting the shared security challenge posed by piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa.”
What can be done:
One must look into the justification for sailors choosing to sail across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea instead of other options.
Blue Water Rallies responded with this statement:
‘Although yachtsmen have been discouraged from sailing through this area for some time, it is a hard decision when the only other choices are to sail around the stormy, dangerous seas off South Africa, leave the yacht in the Far East, put it on an expensive cargo ship, or to sail back across the Pacific which presents more weather challenges and difficulties. When one has set one’s heart on a circumnavigation, these choices are very difficult to make.’
To load a yacht like the SY QUEST on a cargo ship and to bring it to the Mediterranean from the Maldives – whereby such cargo vessel then could be protected by the navies – would have costed the owner e.g. of SY QUEST exactly US$37,700 – an amount most yacht-owners simply can not afford, because the majority of them are not the rich. But that wrong picture is then believed by the readers of glossy magazines as well as Somali sea-bandits. The only other alternative for a safe transit would be to hire a private security escort – an undertaking, which could prove to be even more costly.”
Serious questions have come up and it hast been asked, if the navies do work in cohorts with business interests of the shipping industry or private security companies and just how much is the United States willing to do in order to protect it’s citizens who sail into these most troubled waters?
An article that recently appeared on the online news site International.to wrote:
“Currently many yachts are waiting for a safe opportunity to do the passage from the Indian Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea through the Gulf of Aden, termed now the “pirate alley”, because the navies have persistently refused to safeguard or escort these ships.
Rene Tiemessen, leader of one of the convoys consisting mostly of American and European yachts attempting to reach their home countries from Asia hopes the latest hijacking will cause ‘all politicians to wake up and see what has become of their doing nothing to protect us.’ After his words had been proven true, he told Sail-World.Com by satellite: ‘Although very very sad, this is what we have been warning about all the time.’ He added that ‘people felt abandoned’, since the yachting community, as opposed to merchant seamen, ‘have been neglected.’
Rene and Edith Tiemessen, sailing with their two-year-old child on Alondra, are leading a convoy of around 30 yachts from Thailand to Turkey. For months the Tiemessens have begged the UK Navy to give an escort for approximately 250 sailors travelling on about 100 yachts, while they sail the last part of the journey across the Indian Ocean to Salalah in Oman. They were caught by the developing piracy situation while being on the other side of the Indian Ocean and their simple request to safeguard their voyage home has been consistently refused.
ECOTERRA Intl. and ECOP-marine fully support the rights of free sailors to cross the international oceans and to visit countries and peoples, who welcome them with natural hospitality. It is a shame for all Somalis that criminal gangs now prey on private sailors in non-Somali waters and it is a shame for the so-called international community to not be able to provide protection for convoys of these yachts twice or three times per year.
For further details and regional information see the Somali Marine and Coastal Monitor and the situation map of the PIRACY COASTS OF SOMALIA (2011). See the archive at www.australia.to and news on www.international.to
EMERGENCY HELPLINES: sms or call: +254-719-603-176 / +254-714-747-090
MEDIAL ASSISTANCE RADIO (MAR) network on 14,332.0 USB every day from 07h30 UTC to 08h00 UTC
ECOTERRA Intl. is an international nature protection and human rights organization, whose Africa offices in Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania also monitor the marine and maritime situation along the East African Indian Ocean coasts as well as the Gulf of Aden. ECOTERRA is working in Somalia since 1986 and does focus in its work against piracy mainly on coastal development, marine protection and pacification. ECOP-marine (www.ecop.info) is an ECOTERRA group committed to fight against all forms of crime on the waters. Both stand firm against illegal fishing as well as against marine overexploitation and pollution.” From http://international.to/.
In a post today to the one of the many world cruising groups online, a member made the following contribution:
“The NATO Shipping Centre has this latest advice for yachts:
‘The danger of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin is high and continues to increase. Naval forces strongly recommend that yachts do not transit this area. Merchant ships use Best Management Practices (BMP) to win time for the naval forces to assist them. With a low freeboard and slow speed, yachts are particularly vulnerable to pirate attack. Any direct response from naval assets will depend on the proximity to the incident and may not occur. ‘BMP3 and the self protection measures described in them were not designed for cruising yachts nor will they be sufficient to prevent boardings by Somali pirates. ‘
This statement was issued 2 Feb 2011. As one can see, the experts also do not believe that yachts are less likely to be targeted by these pirates. It is just chance on a big ocean. Run into the pirates and they will try to capture any vessel.”
Perhaps groups like the Seven Seas Cruising Association, (SSCA) whose members are comprised mostly of cruising sailors, will take up the task and begin using their strength in numbers to lobby the U.S. Government for more protection.