This is the concluding part of a very lengthy but revealing interview with a seaman who beat all odds to survive a 1000 days as a captive of the gruesome Somali pirates. Read the continuation of the interview below to know about his surviving techniques and eventual rescue operation. Please click here to read the first part of this interview so you can better appreciate the whole story.
GhanaShippingGuide (GSG); You made mention of another pirate attack that you were involved with while with your captors .
Jewel Ahiable (J.A.); Yes ,we were forced to help the pirates embark on another attack in 2011 running on only 5 cylinders instead of 6, some few miles away from Oman , we encountered a navy patrol ship and just like our earlier attempt the ship together with the crew and pirates were escorted back to Somalia. The ship lost an anchor during that operation and on arrival at Somalia, the pirates asked us to sail the ship to Hobyaa another pirate town in the region.
We embarked on that voyage on a very windy day and forced to sail contrary to the direction of the wind after failed attempts to explain to the pirates that is dangerous and risky for such a ship on a very windy day. Well as fate would have it the engine gave up under such stress and caught fire less than 20 minutes into the voyage.
GSG. That might be scary then, fighting the fire and now losing your engine, meaning you couldn’t move the vessel even if they decide to let you go?
J.A.; Well it was scary, but we had been trained on fighting fire so we did our best to save a bit of the engine room. But that wasn’t enough because the ship had lost both anchors by then and we were drifting astern. Finally on the 3rd of September the ship went aground. At this point we had a bit of hope because we imagined that, they would now leave us alone now that the engine room is burnt, partially underwater and the whole ship rendered useless because its immoveable. Little did we know that incident would rather open up another new chapter of our torture.
GSG; Another chapter of your torture? Meaning things got worse after the ship went aground.
J.A.; Things really went bad, the following day we were made to go down to the engine room to try to start the engine. Now this room was partially filled with water and there was no way that could be possible, but they wouldn’t take that for an answer so we were in the engine room for 3 days and nights with buckets trying to do the impossible job of scooping the water and trying to start the engine, of course that was never possible but we had no choice because all this while we were being lashed and starved. That particular episode resulted in the disappearance of our chief officer; we never saw him again and don’t know where he fell till date.
GSG; I do know that during your captivity you were able to talk to some media houses here In Ghana, how was that possible especially under such strict surveillance.
J.A. Well it is important to know first and foremost that these pirates do not sleep, they have a kind of grass they always chew and so never slept, some of the crew members along the period also began chewing that grass anyway. To talk to the media, I had to always cause a fault or a break in the circuits for the lights to go off in the entire ship and since I was the only marine electrician onboard I would be ordered to the engine room to fix that problem, without surveillance, I was able to make those calls. But I had to stop along the way because I once spoke to a media house and later heard my voice on one of the international radio stations, of course I had to deny when my colleagues insisted the voice was mine. At that point you didn’t know who to trust because some of the crew began to take sides with the pirates which was surely due to the pressure. You just wanted to be in their good books so you may enjoy a bit less hostile treatment.
GSG.; all this while , were you still hopeful of coming home one day?
J.A., Some of our captors had grown fond of us by then and so we knew they may not harm us but were determined to get their ransom and would do whatever it takes. At a point in time however, I lost hope and even thought of suicide because I had been fasting and calling on God for more than 30 months but He seem too busy to listen to me, on the contrary a voice kept telling me to hold on for a miracle, I must also add that “The purpose driven life” a book by Rick Warren really kept me alive and very much hopeful because I kept reading it while on board. It was a parting gift from my mum when I was sailing for the first time and I wish to meet the author someday to tell him how his scribbles helped save my life.
GSG. So now, tell us about the rescue operation that brought you home.
J.A. It was on the 10th of December 2012, at about 5;30 am I was on my knees saying my usual morning prayers when I heard gun shots, I rushed to the upper deck and saw the pirates exchanging gun fire from the monkeys Island of the vessel with some armed men in a nearby boat. The pirates marshaled us to the lower deck while the firing continued from 5:30 am till 3 pm. There were boats with armed men at the starboard side, portside and others positioned on the nearby coast all firing in our direction. I said to a colleague “this is it” this is the day we would be rescued but it never turned out so, rescue was still 12 days away.
GSG. 12 days? That means the rescue operation lasted for that long?
JA. Yes , the pirates were very resistant and were still determined, it took 13 days of continues shelling of bullets and even RPD’s fired at our vessel for us to be rescued. Even though the rescue operation was scary as it looked like a real ‘Hollywood action movie” we actually liked it that way and prayed the rescuers didn’t give up, we were ready for any misfortune even if it means some of us getting shot by stray bullets because at least some would be alive to tell the story.
GSG; So who were your rescuers, the international community, some big country’s navy or?
JA; The pirates finally abandoned the ship on the 22nd of December and that was when I got a full idea of the rescuers, they were the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). You see while in captivity I became so bitter and had planned a whole lots of attacks when am rescued, I was determined to spend the rest of my life just to learn how to pay back this country for allowing their men do that to me but you know what this same people were used by God to rescue us, Our redemption came right from them and am forever grateful to those brave men who rescued us and the country as a whole.
GSG, What happened after your rescue and how did you get back to Ghana
JA. We were first taken to the military base then later to Garowe amidst drumming and dancing by the local people, they were really happy for us and treated us very nicely. We even met with the president and I enjoyed a brief moment of stardom hahaha..as I was featured together with the crew on the national televisions and news papers.
Yemen sent an air force plane for its citizens the next day , followed by India, and I must say that, I have heard of an age long dispute between India and Pakistan but when the Indian plane came it picked along the Pakistanis as well I guess love for humanity transcends all disputes. The Pakistanis were later dropped at Oman to continue their journey home.
The U.N. later sent a plane to come for the rest of us Sudanese, Ghanaians and the Filipino.
GSG. So how has life been after your return home and do you plan on going back to sea?
J.A. well, situations now are not too great, remember I lost a 1000 productive days of my life, no salary and no current job. I heard of a compensation package being prepared by some Insurance organizations, with regards going back to sea ! (a big sigh) it is my profession that is the only thing I know, I trained for many years to be a seafarer and so I may go back to sea.
GSG. What is your opinion regarding the laws surrounding piracy and international shipping especially the rule to not allow ammunitions on commercial vessels?
J.A. If you have been in my situation before, I don’t think this would be a debate at all. I think some guns or trained naval officers should be allowed on board ships in pirate prone zones. The cost of paying ransom and the time wasted far outweighs the cost of paying a security officer to be on board. So for me so long as piracy exist commercial ships should be armed too, all you do is to declare those weapons when you are entering a port after all we declare other belongings when entering a port.
GSG. Finally what are your last words.
J.A. Well, recounting the events surrounding this whole saga and looking at the neglect from the international community while in captivity and even out of captivity, I ask myself, is piracy a just cause? Should I pick up arms and attack a ship too? Yeah because trust me, 33 months with these pirates and being involved with 2 failed other attacks I have learnt and acquired some skills from preparation stage to attacking and getting the ransom. But I still keep my fingers crossed and wait for something good to come up. These are some of the situations that make people pick up arms to commit certain crimes. I rest my case.
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