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Tuvalu, Fijian mariners taken by Somali pirates

ABC RADIO AUSTRALIA BROADCAST - Updated 4 hours 52 minutes ago

Twelve Tuvaluans and one Fiji citizen are continuing to be held hostage by Somali pirates. The seamen, and eleven others, are crewmen aboard the German registered cargo ship, the Hansa Stavanger, which was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean two months ago. Their plight has only been made public recently.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: mother of the captured Fiji seaman Vamarosi Mausio; Edwin Delacruz, the Philippines-based President of the International Seafarers Action Center; Captain John Hogan, head of the Regional Maritime Program of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Listen:Windows Media

HILL: Fiji's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson was unavailable to comment on the case of their citizen, a 31 year-old from Suva. And a spokesperson for Tuvalu's Ministry - who didn't want to be identified - said while they're in touch with the relevant authorities about the plight of the 12 captured Tuvaluans, they have been advised not to comment to the media about the hijacking.

The mother of the captured Fiji seaman, Vamarosi Mausio, speaking on says her son has been able to contact his family by phone.

MAUSIO: Still on the ship in the Somali waters and no-one has notified me about this news, but when he called me to tell me that his been captured by the pirates. He's been contacting and last Sunday, that he called and he said that not to worry, that the government and the company will do something to set them free, but I don't know when, because it's almost two months now. We are all waiting for him to, and I know that he will be back.

HILL: The Pacific has a long tradition of providing seamen for merchant ships around the world, but with the growth of piracy worldwide, it's becoming a dangerous occupation.

Edwin Delacruz, the Philippines-based President of the International Seafarers Action Centre, says there seems to be a double standard when it comes to taking action to rescue hijacked crew.

DELACRUZ: Because it's a question of marketing the seafarers, we do not see seafarers as commodities to be marketed. They are human beings with human rights and the human rights of the Tuvalu seafarer or the Philippine seafarer, or the Fiji seafarer is equal to the human rights for German seafarer or an American seafarer or an Australian seafarer. It is the same right that should be protected and I think the response of the international community is lopsided. There is a person from a rich country, a rich and powerful country. They all rally together and bring the might of the Sixth Fleet or the American force to rescue a person. Tuvalu or Fiji national, then nobody cares except their families.

HILL: So why would young men from the Pacific go to sea if it's becoming so dangerous.

Captain John Hogan, head of the Regional Maritime Program of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community says it's simple economics.

HOGAN: There is approximately 1,000 registered seafarers in Tuvalu, which when you consider the population as just over 10,000 people, that's a very, very significant amount of seafarers in any country. The next point is of course is the flow on affect of family members that seafaring has within a country like Tuvalu.

HILL: Is the seen increase in piracy on the high seas, especially in the Indian Ocean, but also in other parts of the world putting people from places like Tuvalu and Kiribati and Fiji off becoming seafarers? Are they worried about the danger?

HOGAN: I think there's always the danger of piracy. The case of the rise in piracy off Somalia has just highlighted this. But of course then the proven economic climate and when you're talking about small Pacific Island countries and job opportunities. Seafaring is very lucrative job for a lot of these people from the smaller island countries.

HILL: So as a result of this latest incident, which we've got 12 Tuvaluans and one Fijian being held hostage by Somalia pirates. Do you think that this may in fact start to put people off becoming seafarers?

HOGAN: I think the economic pressures will prove too great and you are just really talking about one area at the moment off the coast of Somalia. Ships are trading all round world and not hitting those particular problems.

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