Southampton charity Sailors’ Society is launching a crisis response network to help victims of trauma at sea in Asia, as kidnappings at sea reach their highest levels in 10 years.
The charity, which supports seafarers around the world, has trained all 20 of its chaplains across Asia in crisis response and is now offering a 24-hour support service to victims of piracy, kidnapping and natural disasters.
The network is being launched in the same month that the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) released statistics showing that kidnapping at sea trebled in 2016, with pirates kidnapping 62 people for ransom in 15 separate incidents last year.
The trend appears to be continuing: on January 9, another eight fishermen were killed by armed men who attacked their boat in a suspected pirate attack off the Southern Philippines.
Adi Manurung, 32, is one of 26 crew members from the Naham 3, who were released in October after being held hostage by Somali pirates for almost five years. He is now receiving help from Sailors’ Society chaplains, including financial support, accompanying him on visits to the psychiatrist and providing counselling for him and his family to help him reintegrate into his community.
Adi said he and his colleagues ate mice and wild cats during their captivity.
“I thought that I would die,” he said.
“There was no hope.
“The thing that helped me survive was reading a Bible that I had brought with me. When one of the pirates found out that I had it, he threw it onto the floor and stamped on it.
“My dream for the future is to return to the job I always wanted as a seafarer so I can please my parents, who are aging and cannot work.
“I hated the pirates. But now I can forgive them. God is forgiving, and I should also be a forgiving person.”
The Crisis Response Network Asia expands Sailors’ Society’s existing crisis response networks in Ukraine and Africa, and comes at a time when there has been an escalation in the number of kidnappings in the Sulu Sea between East Malaysia and the Philippines.
According to the IMB, in the last quarter 12 crew members were kidnapped from vessels in three separate attacks in the Sulu Sea.
Stuart Rivers, CEO of Sailors’ Society, said: “Victims of piracy and kidnappings are exposed to violence and terror, which can have a devastating impact on them and their families for years to come.
“By coming alongside these survivors and their families, we can work with other agencies to help them come to terms with what has happened, give them financial, physical and psychological support to help them pick up the pieces of their lives.”