28 December 2010

Report from Day 6

Day 6 - 22 December 2010

Today there is a lot of media interest because the captain of the MVTaipan will give evidence. But first, there is a dispute about a video that was taken by the Dutch marines who captured the pirates.

Despite the fact that the court has known about this video, none of the defendants and only some of the lawyers have seen it, so the the defence lawyers object to the captain giving evidence at this stage. The judge takes a short break and then decides that the captain will start giving evidence, then the court will watch the four hour video (public excluded) and then the examination will continue.

But now the captain, Dierk Eggers. He looks friendly, an old guy with long blond hair, a weather stained face and a woollen hat.

The container ship had been travelling for two days from Djibouti to Mombasa, on a course far away from the Somali coast. They knew about the danger and had deliberately chosen a route some 600 miles off the coast. They saw a small ship about 8 miles away and changed course, the other ship also changed course away from the Taipan and reduced the speed, which made them think that is was a shipping vessel setting nets. In fact the ship had been releasing the speedboats, which showed up on the radar soon after, approaching fast. Eggers set off the alarm, sent the crew to the engine room and sent off an emergency  message and phoned the ship's owner. They speed boats approached fast and shots were fired. Then he went to the fortified engine room himself. The crew heard the pirates enter the ship and look for the crew.
Two hours later, they heard a helicopter arrive, more shots were fired. After a while they heard English voices telling them they were safe, but they weren't sure if it wasn't the pirates trying to trick them. Only after they heard people speak Dutch did they open the door.
Eggers statement ends and the judge tells him that there won't be any questions today. His examination will continue on 3rd January. Eggers says that he still has a fur hat that he found on the ship – should he bring it? Yes, why not, the judge says. We wonder – a fur hat in the tropics? We are later told that many people in Somalia are relying on clothes from humanitarian aid shipments and apparently that is what Europeans give, along with high heeled shoes.