This was a story I never intended on writing about. To be honest media coverage in my opinion isn’t good for the two american’s held somewhere in Nigeria. The theft of fuel and kidnapping of white expats in the oil industry is big business for organized crime in that part of the world. Key words being big and business. The men are taken, generally with out much harm. They are held, they are ransomed, and they are returned. Usually with a beard and a bad case of the runs from the local water. For people in my industry this is common knowledge. You don’t have to work for a boat company very long before you meet someone who has worked over there, or even in my case, meet someone who has been kidnapped and ransomed off a vessel over there. Is it terrible for the families? Of course! Is it a vacation for the mariners? Of course not! However it comes with the territory. People run workboats in that part of the world for the extra money, to say put a kid through college, not for the scenery and friendly locals.
So why did this become a mainstream news topic, when two years ago three men were kidnapped off a near identical vessel under similar circumstances and it never got much of a peep? In my opinion we can thank the Capt. Phillips movie for a large part of it, its in hollywood so it makes it more recognizable to the public at large. Of course they still don’t have much of a clue as to how the industry really operates or even how this matters are safely handled for the crews. They just scream “Navy Seals!”, “Blow em’ out of the water”, “Send Charlie Sheen!”, and my all time favorite “Why aren’t these crews armed!”. This I can all put up with, I don’t expect joe smoe to know that like our country, other countries don’t just let foreigners to bring automatic weapons in on ships and shoot at any local fisherman they feel threatened by, nor that the people generally in charge of the kidnappings are the heads of the local (nigerian) military units tasked with “anti piracy”.
What really does bother me though is when a large media outlet, with the money and resources to do some research. To get a handle on things, and maybe educate the masses just a bit, instead writes something like this.
First off the C-Retriever was never really missing, the American Capt. and Chief Engineers are. The local crew (read nigerians that probably helped have them kidnapped) probably cruised around till daylight and then brought it back into port. Second if that picture is what an abandoned vessel in a third world country looks like, then stop the presses because I can take about 100 nearly identical pictures in Fourchon, Cameron, Venice, and Port Arthur. Guess where all of those places are? The good ole U.S. of A! If this picture had shown the C-Retriever pushed up in the mud among the mangroves, pumped almost dry of fuel, with doors hanging open, trash scattered on deck and a some boarding lines hanging over the side. Now that would a believable story, that would be something worth reporting.
The C-Retriever in the port of Harcourt, Nigeria Photo courtesy of Sohel Uddin NBC News
Similarly “abandoned” vessels in Port Fourchon Sorry if the better picture quality fails to make my point.