Violent pirate attack in Surinam leaves sixteen fishermen dead

PARAMARIBO – A brutal pirate attack left 16 fishermen dead in Suriname’s sea. Another 13 bodies are still missing. Families criticize the government of the former Dutch colony for responding slow on emergency messages.

Nowadays piracy represents an enormous danger all around the South-American coasts, especially along the Caribbean littoral. A case in point is the death of 16 Suriname fishermen who, while working, were killed by pirates. The massacre took place as a group of looters approached the fishermen in a zone known as Double Highbush, where they started to beat and stab their victims. After the plunder pirates forced the fishers to jump into the sea, some of them tied to car batteries to make sure they couldn’t survive. Only three corpses have been found so far. President of the Fishermen Association Mark Lall told BBC World: “We have had several pirate attacks, but we have never had one so brutal.”

Guyana’s President David Granger said that: “Guyana had been very successful in curbing piracy in the region but the latest deadly attack has come as a great setback… we extend sympathy to the families of the bereaved.” Lall expressed concerns over the pirates’ rising level of violence and recklessness. Instead of knives, they increasingly use firearms. “They used to take motors away, now they also take fish captured, gasoline and any other things they find in the ships.” According to Lall, people on the coast are scared of pirates, so for security reasons they prefer not to go out and work.  

According to the organization Oceans beyond Piracy, in Latin-America and the Caribbean 71 piracy-related incidents were recorded in 2017. Ship cargo was stolen in 41 incidents and crew belongings in 18 occasions last year. The number of cases already incurred costs of US$949,000. The CEO of the International Shipping Association BIMCO (spanish acronym) Angus Frew pointed out that reports by Oceans beyond Piracy provide information that can be used to reduce, react to and avoid piracy-related crimes. Recent events suggest the need for better security on the sea, as piracy is a global issue that affects all seafarers. In consequence, the wider implementation of security measures and improved communication with navies will be required to fight piracy.

One measure in response  in recent years has been the creation of Suriname’s Coastguard. The commander of the force Jerry Slijngaard told BBC World that after three years without incidents, the latest case represents a step back. He said: “I have the feeling that not always it is about people who want to steal fish, sometimes it is about retaliation among Guyana fishermen.” In any case, fishers’ worries over this crime will be difficult to ease, and the government will have to strengthen measures to reduce piracy.     


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