US group worked to free hostages

Oceans Be­yond Piracy made 2-year ef­fort to free 26 hostages, in­clud­ing 10 Chi­nese, off Africa

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@chi­nadai­

As fam­ily and friends wel­come home 26 hostages in­clud­ing 10 Chi­nese sailors that were freed by pi­rates in Somalia, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that played a key role in se­cur­ing their re­lease said it be­lieves other hostages are still be­ing held by pi­rates.

John Steed, the Horn of Africa di­rec­tor for Oceans Be­yond Piracy (OBP), worked for nearly two years to gain the re­lease of the 26 hostages, said Jon Hug­gins, OBP di­rec­tor.

“We have not paid a ran­som,” Hug­gins said on Tues­day. “John worked very hard to find out where the hostages were held and in try­ing to con­vince who­ever was hold­ing them that there wasn’t a mon­e­tary value in keep­ing the hostages.”

The crew of the Na­ham 3 was taken cap­tive when their Omani-flagged ves­sel was seized in 2012 south of the Sey­chelles. In ad­di­tion to the 10 Chi­nese sailors — nine from the main­land and one from Tai­wan — the other re­leased hostages were from Cam­bo­dia, In­done­sia, the Philip­pines and Viet­nam.

They were the last of the sailors taken hostage at the height of the So­mali piracy, although sev­eral hostages taken later still re­main.

“We think there are be­tween 13 and 15 hostages still be­ing held by pi­rates,” said Hug­gins.

Oceans Be­yond Piracy was formed in 2010 at the peak of the mar­itime piracy at­tacks. Hug­gins said OBP con­tin­ues to watch three hotspots in the world.

One is the wa­ters off of the Horn of Africa which drew in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion after a se­ries of at­tacks in the re­gion from 2008 un­til 2010. “We have seen a sig­nif­i­cant drop in the num­ber of at­tacks there since 2012,” said Hug­gins.

He cited bet­ter co­op­er­a­tion be­tween navies, ship­ping com­pa­nies and a rule-of-law ap­proach that has seen the con­vic­tion of over 1000 So­mali pi­rates for the de­cline.

The other ar­eas that still ex­pe­ri­ence pi­rate ac­tiv­ity in­cludes the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, and wa­ters near the Philip­pines and Bangladesh, Hug­gins said.

OBP is part of One Earth Fu­ture, a pri­vately funded non-profit foun­da­tion that works with com­mu­ni­ties to ad­dress the root causes of con­flict and pave the way to a more peace­ful world. It was founded in 2007 by en­tre­pre­neur Mar­cel Arse­nault and his wife, Cynda Collins Arse­nault. Both or­ga­ni­za­tions are based in Broom­field, Colorado.

One Earth Fu­ture (OEF) said the newly freed hostages will likely face a stress­ful re­cov­ery.

“Time spent as a hostage is ex­tremely stress­ful, and al­most ev­ery hostage will have some lin­ger­ing stress. The OEF Re­search shows that piracy can leave last­ing im­pacts on sea­far­ers and their fam­i­lies. But sea­far­ers are a psy­cho­log­i­cally re­silient group and the re­search sug­gests that the large ma­jor­ity of hostages, about 75 per­cent, will re­cover with no last­ing im­pact,” said Dr. Conor Seyle, di­rec­tor of OEF Re­search.

Seyle said re­cov­ery for hostages can be max­i­mized through good train­ing, plan­ning and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­fore an at­tack, sup­port for fam­i­lies while sea­far­ers are hostages and a process of rein­te­gra­tion and for­mal men­tal health sup­port for hostages and their fam­i­lies once they have re­turned.

John Steed, the Horn of Africa di­rec­tor for Oceans Be­yond Piracy

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