Sub-standard ships and human costs of piracy: The case of Captain Prem Kumar
The human costs of piracy off the Horn of Africa are mounting with an escalating level of violence and shipowners unwilling to pay higher ransoms while operating sub-standard ships. As the plight of Captain Prem Kumar demonstrates, innocent seafarers suffer most.
A GENERAL cargo ship Rak Afrikana, which was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2010 in the Indian Ocean, sank a few hours after being released 11 months later. The Rak Afrikana, which was declared a total loss in March 2011, was crewed by 23 seafarers, 11 of whom were Indians, under the command of 49 year-old Captain Prem Kumar. It was owned by a company in the United Arab Emirates and under the flag of St Vincent and Grenadines.
As the ransom negotiations between the pirates and the shipowner dragged on, crew members were increasingly ill-treated and poorly fed by the pirates. Finally a ransom of US$1.2 million was paid -- much less than ransoms paid for other vessels.