The freed men are trying to cope with the medical and psychological aftereffects of their brutal 33-month captivity, and are attempting to rebuild their lives.
The men have not been helped by the fact that their employer, Azal Shipping & Cargo, stopped the men's pay as soon as they were captured. So some of the men are returning home to families who have been devastated by the nearly three-year interruption of financial support.
The returned captives have begun to receive help from UNPOS, the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime Hostage Support Program, the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), and the ITF, among others.
According to ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel: “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.”
“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.”
“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.”
4.1 A State's counter-piracy policy should contain measures regarding the eventuality that a ship entitled to fly its flag is captured, and to ensure that, as far as possible, the humanitarian needs of the crew and families are addressed during the period of captivity and after release. In particular, it should ensure that:
.1 shipowners operating ships entitled to fly its flag are aware of and implement the guidance contained in MSC.1/Circ.1390, Guidance for company security officers (CSOs) – Preparation of a Company and crew for the contingency of hijack by pirates in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden;
.2 the shipowner or operator of a ship captured by pirates keeps the families of hijacked seafarers informed of relevant developments; and
.3 shipowners look after the welfare of captured seafarers and their families.
4.2 The Administration should establish, as necessary, plans and procedures to assist owners, managers and operators of ships entitled to fly its flag in the speedy resolution of hijacking cases occurring in the waters off the coast of Somalia, including the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean.
No more has been heard yet about Dheeraj Tiwari, the brave First Officer who was taken off the ship by the pirates over a year before it was freed by PMPF last month. Although he was not among those rescued in December, his family, too, is in distress. Where has Panama been?
Prominent maritime blogger Barista Uno put it like this: "Panama should be ashamed. The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) is now having to call on it to help the recently released crew of the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1 recover from their ordeal in the hands of Somali pirates. Panama should have been amongst the first to come to their succor. Its seeming lack of concern doesn’t speak well of the country. Is Panama only after the money to be made from operating the world’s largest ship register?"