Anybody reading this forum can easily put themselves in the shoes of the crew of S/V Quest. Their capture speaks to some of our deepest fears as sailors.
The more difficult challenge that I offer to you is to put yourself in the shoes of a Somali pirate. The goal of this not to make some liberal, pacifist rant (though I am both liberal and a pacifist), but an attempt to understand both sides of the problem in the search for a solution. Because what we all really want is to be able to safely sail the Indian Ocean
Suspend disbelief here.
You were born in the coastal city of Obbia, the home of your ancestors. Saad, the name your parents gave you, means good fortune, though fortunate is not something you would call yourself. You were eight years old in nineteen ninety-one when the government
fell. This does not mean much to you as you play on the beach each evening, waiting for your father and uncles to return with the catch of fish
that has provided your family
with a livelihood for many generations.
Soon after, you hear your Father and uncles talking about the large foreign boats that catch entire schools of tuna at a time. They fish
close enough to Somali shores that you can sometimes see their lights from shore at night. The catch dwindles until the proceeds will no longer even buy the gas to go out and catch enough fish to feed the family
In order to make some money
for the family and have two less mouths to feed, your father sends you and your younger brother Amad away from the coast to be goat herders. You and Amad work hard and very much miss your family on the coast. You don’t see your family more than once or twice a year but you are very proud of the contribution that you and your brother make.
The foreign boats are long gone and the fish have not returned, though you still see lights on the horizon when you are home. When you ask your father about it, he tells you that these boats have been seen to dump thousands of steel
but no one knows what is in them.
You are thirteen in 2004 and have been herding goats with Amad for five years when you hear of the great wave that kills hundreds of people and wipes out the town of Hafun on the coast. Your family is spared, though they lose a boat that they didn’t have money
to run anyway. Some of the barrels dumped by the foreign ships wash ashore but they are broke open and empty. The symbols and foreign writing on the barrels offer no clues even to those few who can read in their own language.
Soon after the great wave you hear that a horrible sickness has afflicted your entire family and many others who live on the coast. By the time you and Amad reach home two weeks later there is no one left. You and Amad are orphans. It is said that anyone who goes near the beach becomes sick. You hear that a foreign doctor who came to help after the great wave said that it was radiation sickness that killed everyone. That those barrels that washed up were filled with toxic waste, dumped there by a European company. Without a government
there was no one to stop them.
You and Amad follow your grief to Mogadishu, where you hear of some men
who are fighting back against the foreign ships that emptied the sea of fish and filled it with toxic waste. They capture foreign ships and hold them until their foreign owners pay great sums to retrieve them. These men
are heroes to you and everyone you know. They drive around Mogadishu in foreign cars and build great palaces with the money they get.
One day, you are begging for money to buy some food
for you and Amad when one of these men asks if you would like to go to sea and try to capture a ship. You and your brother are slowly starving to death and this man has offered you the opportunity to have more wealth than you could ever imagine having.
What would you do if you were Saad ?
Yes this is fiction, but the scenario is entirely plausible from what I know about the situation in Somalia