The Somali curse on Karnataka fisherfolk

Danger at sea

Crisis off coast: A picture of a cargo ship passing closer to the coast, snapped by a fisherman from his boat. DH photo

Apprehending attacks from the pirates, large cargo vessels now sail closer to the shore, where the fishermen operate.

Before the threat from the pirates escalated, the ships used to sail about 300 to 450 nautical miles, but now they pass within a few kilometres of the coast, to be able to call on the Coast Guard or the Navy for help in case of an attack on them.

The shifting of the ship corridor closer to the coast and bang in the middle of fishing zone has seriously endangered the lives and livelihoods of small fishermen.

Fishermen in their small boats and trawlers in search of fish schools are in mortal fear of the fast-moving cargo vessels running them down.

In many cases, the turbulence caused by the giant propellers of the big ships churning up the sea water, have upended the small boats and trawlers, although, fortunately, no loss of life is reported so far.

However, the fishermen have reported loss of their nets that they lay in the fishing zone, to the relentless churning of the ships’ propellers.

On May 5, a ship bound for Mumbai bore down on some trawlers in its path about 30-40 nautical miles from the shore, scaring the daylights out of the fishermen in the boats.
“Perhaps noticing the trawlers at the last moment, the captain of the ship altered the ship’s course to avoid the boats, avoiding a tragedy,” fisherman Viswanath told Deccan Herald.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) figures, 142 pirate attacks on cargo ships occurred in the first three months of 2011.

Seventy per cent of the attacks took place in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Somalian pirates took hostage 30 ships and 588 crew by the end of March end this year. Seven hostages, including four Americans have been killed.

Only recently, Indian Navy and Coast Guard vessels assisted by Nato ships rescued a Chinese ship, ‘Full City’ from Somali pirates.

The pirates are targeting areas cloe to the north-east Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, since it is a major international maritime cargo corridor.

Such concerns however can be no consolation to the fishermen of the Karnataka coast whose lives and livelihoods are more at danger from the ships that are seeking to escape the pirates, than the pirates themselves.

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