04 January 2011

Report from Day 7

Day 7 – 03 January 2011 - As long as it takes to boil an egg

Today, the captain of the MV Taipan, Dierk Eggers was questioned first by the judge and then by the defence counsel.

First, the judge asks about the trip and the ship's cargo. It turns out that Eggers only took over the ship in Djibouti because the original captain didn't want to travel into the danger zone. He hadn't known which route the ship was going to take. At the time, the Taipan was sailing under German flag. Shortly after the incident, this was changed and it is now sailing under Liberian flag, because under Liberian law it is allowed to have armed guards on board, which is prohibited for German ships.

Eggers describes how they had passed the Gulf of Aden the day before in a convoy, accompanied by military ships. Still, they witnessed on the radio how one ship was attacked.

The judge wants to know about the 'safe room' to which the crew retreated. Then he asks about the actual attacks – what weapons did the attackers have? Eggers states that he doesn't have a clue about guns, one of the reasons he went to sea was to avoid military service. For how long were they under fire? “For as long as it takes to boil an egg – 5 minutes”.

We notice how he avoids the term 'pirates' – instead he uses the old fashioned word 'freebooter'.

Then the judge asks about the personal impact the incident has had on Eggers and the crew. Did he take a break after arriving in Dubai? “No, the only place where I can relax is the ship”. Has it impacted his life? No, actually it's been a good experience because he realised how calm he could remain in a situation like that. Post traumatic stress? The mechanic didn't sleep well for a while.

Next, one of the defence lawyers cross examines. She wants to know who decides about the route the ship takes. The captain does, with recommendations from the European anti-piracy operation ATALANTA. “More than recommendations”, Eggers says.

Then the subject is the Dutch crew who rescued them, but it appears that the exchange between them and Eggers was rather limited. “The commander told me he had arrested them”. He wasn't questioned by anyone until he arrived in Dubai, where the German Federal Criminal Office interviewed him.

Asked, if he could think of any improvements that could be made to avoid attacks he suggests to have a Muslim priest on board to talk to the attackers.