Imagine starting your work day, just like you always do. You greet your colleagues and start your day, as anybody else around the world would do. Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself at gunpoint in your workplace. You're understandably frightened and you want to be free. The criminals tell you they are demanding a ransom, and lock you and your fellow workers in a confined space. You wait for rescue, or for the ransom to be paid by your employer. But nothing happens.
Now imagine that you stay in limbo, in that fear, for two and a half years.
That is the reality of the crew members on board the M/V Iceberg 1. This is the longest recorded period of a crew in this type of captivity.
The M/V Iceberg 1 was hijacked by Somali pirates on the 29th of March 2010. On board were 24 seafarers (9 Yemenis, 6 Indians, 4 Ghanians, 2 Sudanese, 2 Pakistani & 1 Filipino, as per somaliareport.com ). Since the time of being taken, it has been confirmed that 1 crew member, the Yemeni 3rd Officer, has committed suicide by jumping overboard. There are grave fears for the Chief Officer as he has been separated from his fellow crew members by gunpoint. There is speculation through Mr. Ansar Burney, humanitarian lawyer and former Expert Advisor in the United Nations on Human Rights, that there has been a second suicide .
The conditions are appalling. The crew members, per Somalia Report , are given little but rice and water. They are in a small, cramped space, and hygiene is minimal. Many crew members are suffering unbearable physical and mental illnesses. A ship like the Iceberg 1 is not meant to be at sea, undocked and unmaintained for this period of time. The diesel generators for the freezers are not working adequately as they do not have sufficient fuel to run them after this period of time. This is a huge concern as this is where the body of the deceased 3rd Officer is being stored.
This situation is a living hell for 23 people at the hands of criminals. There is also mixed messages on their status. There was suggestion that the owner of the Iceberg 1, Azal Shipping & Cargo, had paid $4 million to free the crew, then $5 million (per Maritime Security Review). There is also evidence to suggest that the crew are being held off the Iceberg 1 on land in Somalia. Despite talks of ransom, there is no sign yet of freedom for the seafarers. This is even more disturbing when you consider the pirates have previously threatened to kill all the hostages and harvest their organs to sell on the black market, as they would fetch a sum greater than the ransom requested (per Hiiran Online ).
This disgusting treatment is also a counterpoint to the plight of the families of these seafarers. At home and frantic with worry, some of the families have stopped receiving information, and have even stopped receiving the wages they would have been directly forwarded from their husbands. Azal Shipping & Cargo have not been paying wages for these crew members (per IBN Live ).
Sadly, the Iceberg 1 is not an isolated case. There is an estimated 199 people in captivity as at the end of 2011 (per EU Navfor Somalia )
President Mukherjee (President of India) and Mr. Shri G. K. Vasan (Indian Minister of Shipping), we implore you to investigate the dire situation that the crew of the Iceberg 1 are currently facing, and put as much of your resources as possible towards freeing them. Whether that be a rescue or ransom is, in many ways, almost immaterial. We ask that you consider the lives at stake, and their current predicament. These men will not be freed if someone does not take action and make a solid stand against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. These people desperately need to be rescued before it's too late.
- The MV Iceberg 1 Mariners Action Group - http://mariners-action-group.weebly.com/index.html
 Somalia Report: http://www.somaliareport.com/index.php/post/96/
 Tweet by Mr. Ansar Burney: https://twitter.com/AnsarBurney/status/247690740568817665 , Mr Burney's twitter account: https://twitter.com/AnsarBurney
 Weekly Piracy Report, Somalia Report, August 7th - 14th 2012: http://www.somaliareport.com/index.php/topic/63
 Maritime Security Review: http://www.marsecreview.com/2011/11/renegade-fears/
 Hiiran Online: http://www.hiiraan.com/news2/2010/oct/somali_pirates_issue_final_ultimatum.aspx
 IBN Live: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/mv-iceberg-2-years-on-govt-yet-to-take-action/243978-3.html
 EU Navfor Somalia http://www.eunavfor.eu/2011/12/merchant-ship-crews-held-hostage-in-somalia/
I have just signed a petition in relation to the ongoing captivity of the crew of the M/V Iceberg 1, a Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates. Amongst the crew of the Iceberg 1 are six Indian citizens.
I implore you to take further action to assist these mariners. They have been held in captivity since the 29th of March 2010. Two crew members are reported to have died, and the remaining crew members are in highly unsafe and unhygienic conditions. It would be unacceptable for any more of these people to die.
I encourage you to further strengthen dialogue with Azal Shipping & Cargo, the owner of the Iceberg 1. With government pressure, a ransom is far more likely to be paid and a safe return of the seafarers achieved. Further, if this company is unable to fund ransom in it's demanded amount, as a government with one of the greatest represented captives, I plead for financial assistance to pay the money demanded. Piracy is illegal, but letting these people die without trying to save them is a far greater crime.
Finally, I request that there be further transparency of government to publicly declare what is being done for these mariners. Governments have the capacity to reassure those currently working in this industry that there are measures in place to protect their safety.
Thank you for your consideration.