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SE Indian Ocean, Madagascar, Majunga - Piracy Incident

By doina — last modified Jan 21, 2009 07:59 PM

Published: 2009-01-21 19:59:18
Topics: Piracy Reports 2007
Countries: Madagascar

Justice Malanot, local Sailmail Support for Southern Africa, sent Noonsite the following report of an attack on French Canadian yacht "Ciel&Mer;" crewed by Rejane, Richard and Denis Soucy, off Majunga, Madagascar.

Denis Soucy writes: "The four pirates dropped in our boat at 2 o'clock in the morning on Friday the 19 of Oct. They came in through a hatch that was open for ventilation. I was awaken by a suspicious noise and standing, trying to load my flares gun but the first punched me with a leg shot thru the ribs and stepped over me while the second one was getting Rejane and the third came to help the one that was trying to choke me. This took not more than 15 seconds. As I caught in the dark, the hand of the second one, I realised that he has a knife that deeply cut my right thumb when he suceeded in sliding it out of my hold. He then went down and drove his knife thru my left calf in order to neutralise me. Immediately I pushed my hand to his face but he caught my thumb in his mouth biting it and holding it very fiercly. I realized at that moment that the one on Rejane was about to kill her by strangulation; after shaking her legs, I heard her last whisper and she fell inanimated. I stopped immediately fighting and asked many times for everybody to calm down and that we were about to give them what they wanted. They had already begin to shout like hell for the money (l'argent l'argent ou est l'argent...l'argent l'argent ...ou est ...)and they were so speedy and nervous that I felt this situation was extremely dangerous. It took a long moment to have a light calm down as they were shouting all together. By that time they had tied roughly Rejane who had started to come back to life by some long and noisy breathing. I had a very hard time to explain them that they had to free Rejane because she was the one who could give them the few money we had on board. Their French was weak and English was totally misunderstood.

"Rejane that was recovering from a deep trauma was completely lost in her head and about the situation; she was unable to figure where she had put the few Ariarys we had on board; after a while, always thru their uninterrupted shouts, she found a bag in which there were a few euros (44) and US$(26). One of them rapidly put the money in his pocket and was very frustrated cause he expected a lot more. They thought we were carrying the money for our whole around the world trip...!!! so they planned to sexual aggress Rejane to get more. I was distracted with that perspective that they were discussing in Malgash. Until that moment I was standing, untied under the menace of their knives and I was from far the calmiest of that whole gang. Things were running very fast in my head and I had to do something urgently : So I started to affirm, whith all the conviction I could, that violence was useless cause they HAD the money...they HAD the money and that this guy has it in his pocket showing the one that took it from Rejane. That was a good idea because, in the dark and the moving flashlight, nobody knew the amout of money he has put in his pocket, even me. I stirred up trouble in the group, they did not trust much each other and the thing started to improve for us. He even made the mistake to show a few bills asking to Rejane its value in Ariarys making the others more suspicious. The money-man came angry about how the situation had turned as he was now the center of interest; so he came at me, pushing me a bit and telling me to sit on the floor so that they could tie me. I gently accepted this as a logical proposition and declare to them that there was mothing I will try to prevent them from taking what they want. They charged the one that seemed to be the yongest one, to watch us. He tied my wrists and legs without conviction with innocents knots and didn't tie Rejane who sat on the floor. One of them came to me asking me to lit the cabin lignts. I oppose a firm "no way" repeating that I let them take what they want but I don't want to know their faces. So we stayed in the dark, otherwise, it could have been a sufficient reason to get rid of us before they left.

"As we had been sitting on the floor for more than an hour with our watchman, we managed to have a conversation with him. It was hard at the beginning because he didn't want to talk and asked us to shut-up, pointing us with his knife. But after a while, as the others came many times asking us information about what they were finding, we succeeded in starting a very comprehensive conversation, avoiding any kind of blame. We talked about their poverty, our nice contacts whith the poor but proud people of St Marie Island, the gifts we made to the extremely poor community of Mitsio, medication and other. The problem he have to live in Majunga...etc..etc and incredibly, I convinced him to give me back my lap-top that I could hide from the three others. I could the same way hide under the map table, plenty of ropes that were on the floor in front of the door, ready to go out. We start to feel better and at the end, as one was going out with my guitar, he asked me if I was able to play. As I said Yes, he had a loud discussion, each pulling the guitar by both ends, he finally gave it back to me...! With one more hour of conversation....???? It is only many hours later that we realised how mutch we were damaged; fractured ribs for both of us and many knife wounds that needed many stitches. Now we are slowly recovering from the pirate attack and everything is in a good way."

Rejane Richard and Denis Soucy, Ciel & Mer

According to Justice Malanot this is the first low level armed robbery incident in Majunga in the nearly 10 years he has been hosting Sailmail in Africa. However, after posting the above report, Denis Soucy contacted Noonsite to say:

"Another sailboat was in Majunga two weeks before I went there and they were boarded by pirates but their boat Mimosa II (French) is built like a tank so they could not come inside and nothing happened. Another boat was attacked and stolen on the same night. They send me a email to warn me but it arrived 4 days too late."

Justice Malanot's assessment of the piracy risk in the region is as follows: Seychelles, Comoros, Chagos and Coco Keeling areas: very low. East African Coast south of Somalia: piracy risk is very low to low, same for Madagascar. Somalia piracy risk is moderate to high. Justice advises: "Don't sail close to the Somali coast, sail in a group, do what it takes, have backbone. It is a bad neighbourhood in a great region, all cities the world over have one of those. The precautions to take is that against petty criminals, and you avoid being a victim of a drive by shooting by giving the bad neighbourhood a wide miss (80 miles plus). The mature assessment is that it is an acceptable risk."

Commercial shipping remains more at risk from pirates than yachts, suffering the majority of attacks around the world. Two dramatic incidents occured in the past week off the Somali coast with the crew of a North Korean ship fighting off pirates and a Japanese tanker being hijacked in the Gulf of Aden and taken by pirates into Somali waters. In both cases the US Navy intervened and efforts are being made now to release the hijacked ship and its crew. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre area assessment is as follows:

  • the Gulf of Aden / Red Sea : A number of suspicious craft reports have been received. These craft either set a collision course, or pursue the ships. Mariners advised to be cautious. In the past, some of the vessels have been fired upon.
  • Somalian waters : The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre has received 26 actual and attempted attacks so far this year. Many more attacks may have gone unreported. Some pirates are dangerous and would fire their automatic weapons at ships to stop them. Occasionally, they would use their RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) launchers at ships. Pirates are believed to be using “mother vessels” to launch attacks at very far distance from coast. These “mother vessel” is able to proceed to very far out to sea to launch smaller boats to attack and hijack passing ships. Eastern and Northeastern coasts are high risk areas for attacks and hijackings. Vessels not making scheduled calls to ports in Somalia should keep as far away as possible from the Somali coast, ideally more than 200 nautical miles. Mariners are also advised to report any suspicious boats to the Centre.

IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tel + 60 3 2078 5763, Fax + 60 3 2078 5769, E-mail 24 Hours Anti Piracy HELPLINE Tel: ++ 60 3 2031 0014