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Seafarers are being subjected to increasing levels of violence at sea including physical and psychological abuse – even torture – according to a new report.

The report, The human cost of Somali piracy, published by the Oceans Beyond Piracy Project, which looks into achieving a long-term, sustainable solution to piracy, claims that in 2010 alone, more than 4000 seafarers were attacked –  some vessels and crew multiple times.

It also outlines how 342 seafarers endured hours or days of persistent attacks while sheltering in ships’ citadels or fortified safe rooms; pirates have reportedly fired rocket-propelled grenades at citadel doors at close range and used plastic explosives. They even set fire to three ships while terrified crews huddled below decks.

More than 1000 seafarers were held hostage often for months without proper nutrition, access to medical care, or contact with their families. It is understood that this has led to the deaths of some, both through suicide and malnutrition.

Meanwhile, 516 seafarers were used as human shields in attacks on other vessels as the crewmembers of some captured ships are forced to continue to operate these ships as “motherships” to capture others.

In addition up to 21 of the 53 vessels reported to have been hijacked in 2010 claimed that as many as 488 seafarers suffered significant psychological or physical abuse. In the worst cases, torture was alleged.

Commenting on this worrying situation, Jon Whitlow, ITF seafarers’ section secretary, said: “This report is a valuable addition to the mountain of evidence that the pirates have been allowed to get away with it for too long – allowing them to spread their increasingly violent and inhuman activities across a wider and wider area. Once again it shows the crying need for decisive action to defeat piracy.”

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Original article can be found here.