Somali Pirate Hostages Climb Above 1,200 as Violence Escalates

Somali pirates attacking ships in the Indian Ocean held more than 1,200 seafarers as hostages last year and tortured or abused half of them as violence escalated, a study found.

A total of 1,208 mariners were held, the Broomfield, Colorado-based One Earth Future Foundation said today in a report, “The Human Cost of Somali Piracy.” Ten percent of hostages on hijacked vessels experienced extreme torture including starvation and simulated drowning, it said.

Attacks by an estimated 3,000 Somali pirates wielding AK-47 assault rifles and covering an area as large as continental Europe navigated by 42,000 ships annually reached a record in 2011, costing the industry and governments $6.9 billion. The report dispels any impressions within the industry that hostages are generally treated well as ransom negotiations take place, according to Pottengal Mukundan, director of the London-based International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre.

“The condition as a hostage is not the way it has been portrayed,” he said yesterday in an interview.

Thirty-five hostages died, of whom eight were murdered by pirates and eight more succumbed to malnutrition or disease, according to the report, prepared by the nonprofit foundation using IMB figures. Nineteen hostages were killed in clashes between naval forces and pirates, the study showed.

Armed Guards

Somali pirates attacked 237 ships and hijacked 28 last year, adding nine more seizures in 2012’s first quarter, according to IMB data. Costs included $1.16 billion spent by ship owners on armed guards and additional security and $2.7 billion used for fuel to divert from high-risk areas, the foundation said in a separate report in February.

Two-thirds of the world’s oil is shipped through the Indian Ocean as well as 50 percent of all containerized traffic, Jean- Paul Adam, minister for foreign affairs for the Republic of Seychelles, said June 14 at a U.K. parliamentary committee hearing. Seaborne trade to Europe passing through the region totals $952 billion, according to a March 2011 study by IHS Fairplay for the U.K.’s Chamber of Shipping and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Wiese Bockmann in London at mwiesebockma@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at anightingal1@bloomberg.net

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