MOGADISHU, Somalia—Survivors of a recent pirate attack near the horn of Africa reported the experience much more of a horrifying ordeal than a rollicking adventure.
The Somali pirates seized an Ukrainian cargo ship by approaching on three small speed boats. Crew members were surprised to see the pirates armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, rather than the cutlasses, flintlock pistols, and hook-hands commonly associated with marauders on the high seas.
“I’d expected piracy to be a little more…I don’t know. Adventurous, I guess,” said crew member Yuri Dimitriov, lamenting the general lack of swordplay, swashbuckling and debonair wit exhibited by the pirates. “Mostly they just yelled and cursed. Occasionally they’d beat one of us. If I hadn’t urinated myself fearing for my life, I would’ve thought the whole experience was pretty disappointing.”
Some crew members were more realistic about the encounter. “We weren’t on a sailboat, so they couldn’t do that thing where they launch themselves at our mast, plunge a dagger into the sheet, and descend gracefully to the poop deck,” First Mate Gustaw Kovalevsky said. “And they were holding us for ransom, so making us walk the plank wouldn’t be practical, either.”
“It is what it is,” he added with a wistful sigh.
Economic experts anticipate the rise in piracy to increase costs for everything from oil to everyday goods as shipping companies plot longer routes avoiding pirate-patrolled waters. That doesn’t count the hefty ransoms paid to the pirates—ransoms which authorities can no longer be sure are being stashed on remote desert islands accessible only by following cryptic, circuitous maps.
Despite not having an eye patch or peg leg among them, these pirates performed efficiently, securing their ransom in fewer than 48 hours, leaving the Ukrainian ship as quickly as they’d come. But does such efficiency come at the expense of artistry?
“One crewmember, they shot in the stomach and let him moan there for three hours without once threatening to send him to Davy Jones’ locker,” Dimitriov said. “They had no concept of what piracy is. No style at all.”