My 70 days held Hostage by Nigerian Pirates

My 70 days held Hostage by Nigerian Pirates

Excruciating 70 days in captivity

An Indian seafarer, Mr. Chaudhary, who was released from the captivity of Nigerian pirates shared his traumatic and horrific ordeal with ISWAN South Asia (India). ISWAN India contacted the seafarer and offered humanitarian support.

During the conversation, he sounded positive despite several physical aberrations e.g. loss of 20 kg weight, huge deficiency of haemoglobin, and raised ECR due to multiple infections in his body etc. His elaborations on his experience confirmed that he along with his other crew members went through one of the worst awful ordeals during 70 days period of captivity. His experience portrayed as follows:

Mr. Chaudhary had joined a Mumbai based shipping company named K Ship in November 2018. The ship was assigned to him to sail through the dangerous waters of Nigeria with a total of 15 crew members on it, out of which 6 were Indians and 9 others were Nigerian and Ghanaians.

In April 2019, his ship was attacked by pirates when Mr. Chaudhary was relaxing in his cabin post-lunch. Before he could understand anything, the thundering sound of gunshots made him feared and the pirates stepped into his cabin in the broad daylight. This was the time when the ship was waiting at outer anchorage for permission to enter into the inner anchorage. The pirates took Mr. Chaudhary along with 6 others crew members in their custody, among them 5 were Indians and 2 others were Nigerians which included Nigerian Captain. The whole incident took merely 15 minutes through which pirates were successfully able to execute their plans.

The crew were traced and taken off from the ship in a short span of time. While pirates were forcibly taking the crew to leave the vessel, Mr. Chaudhary recalled that there were at least 6 or 7 naval ships sailing around but there was no retaliatory action taken by them against the pirates even when they were aware of the pirate attack on the ship.

The 7 crew members were blindfolded and were taken by boat to a remote place. After around 5-6 hours of sailing, they reached a new isolated destination, where they all were kept in a hut throughout the night. The next morning, all 5 Indian seafarers were shifted little away from the hut on top of a wooden platform, made amidst the bushes without a roof, while the two Nigerian seafarers were kept in the hut.

Mr Chaudhary shared a horrific instance when they were shown human skeletons all around that area and pirates intimidated the Indian captives that if they try to flee, their consequence will be the same.

The weather in the place was quite humid and rainy and as there was no roof to protect them, they use to get completely drenched whenever it rained. Mr. Chaudhary was shirtless when he was taken away from the ship and thereafter he spent the whole duration of captivity in the same condition. The sign of mosquito bites could be seen all over his body.

The group of 5 Indian crew members were offered scanty edibles. During the whole day, only 1 bowl of Noodles was offered, which they used to share among themselves. It used to be hardly 1 or 2 spoons for each crew, narrated Mr Chaudhary and that they had to drink muddy rainwater for their survival. The other two Nigerian captives were being treated altogether in different ways. They were offered with 3-time meals, mineral water, wine, cigarettes, mosquito nets etc.

The place was full of mosquitoes, sun flies and other insects including snakes therefore it was quite difficult for them to lay down on the floor and sleep. Recalling his ordeal, Mr. Chaudhary expressed, throughout the period of captivity, he couldn’t take more than 15 minutes of a nap at a stretch. The pirates were quite violent in nature, remained intoxicated all the time and frequently use to slap and hit with all the Indian hostages with the gun buts.

The pirates were equipped with sophisticated weapons like RPGs, Grenade launcher, AK-56 rifles, Machine Guns etc. and never use to establish any communication with them. The hostages were totally on the mercy of their destiny. Despite realizing their escape is difficult and to keep themselves calm and positive, they use to pray and give false assurances to themselves of their release and remembered their past happy times that they had spent with their loved ones.

On the other side, the pirates were in negotiation with the shipowner for the ransom, but when the owner negated to pay to them, the pirates directly contacted the family members of the Indian hostages. When further pressure was mounted by family members on the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian Embassy in Nigeria did their best to bring back the owner of the vessel on negotiating table with pirates.

However, due to alleged mischievousness of the mediator between the pirates and the owner, it actually took a very long time to settle the deal which made the hostage situation even bad to worse. Eventually, the deal was settled and the mediator reached the pirates’ location by hiring a boat and all the captives were then able to leave that horrific place in the same boat.

When Mr. Chaudhary was asked if he would like to give any suggestion based on the experiences he learnt, he emphasized the presence of private security guards on all the vessels transiting through piracy affected areas. While appreciating the role of the Indian Government and various measures that they had initiated towards their release, he hoped that the Government should not only take such immediate action but also in parallel, they should ensure that family members of the crew are kept well informed and updated on what action has been taken.

Another concern Mr. Chaudhary shared is that he has still not received wages even for a month since he had joined the ship. Keeping this in view, he was suggested to follow with DG shipping to get it resolved however in case he along with other companions, needs any support related to physical or psychological intervention, the same shall be arranged by ISWAN. Apart from this, for further growth in their career, ISWAN always stands by with them for any guidance and support.

Mr. Chaudhary appreciated ISWAN’s efforts and he extended his interest to be a part of such drive. He assured that he will remain in contact with ISWAN and would like to share his experiences with other seafarers so as they do not have to go through such difficult ordeal.

ISWAN South Asia reiterates that seafarers should be vigilant and not be complacent while transiting through piracy infected areas. They should report immediately on any suspected incident to the relevant authority in that region who may be able to help them further.

This story was shared by ISWAN on The Maritime Post facebook group

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