Chaplains from international maritime charity, Sailors’ Society, are providing emotional support to 10 seafarers who were released on May 1 after five weeks captivity at the hands of Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
Sailors’ Society chaplain Muhartono Tito, who is based in the Indonesian port of Banjarmasin, had been providing welfare assistance together with colleagues to the seafarers’ families prior to their release.
Muhartono said: ‘I acted as the liaison between the ship owner and the families.
‘They were incredibly worried about the safety of their loved ones. When news broke that the terrorists had freed the men, I called their family members who were incredibly grateful.’
One of the seafarers’ wives said: ‘My husband is finally reunited with his family.’
Muhartono added: ‘They were incredibly worried about the safety of their loved ones. I called all of the seafarers’ families when news broke that they were freed – they were incredibly relieved and held a prayer service to give thanks.’
One of the freed seafarers said: ‘We were very stressed because they frequently threatened to slit our throats.’
Muhartono explained: ‘Although they are all home safely, it is a real possibility that both the seafarers and their families will be suffering from stress after this traumatic incident. I have offered counselling and have asked the ship owner to give the seafarers a grace of period of a month to recover.’
Despite their ordeal, the seafarers are reportedly in good physical health.
Their release comes a week after Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian businessman John Ridsdel.
According to authorities, Abu Sayyaf are still holding at least 11 people hostage.
The latest incident in the Philippines highlights an upsurge of kidnappings for ransom at sea, with the Malacca Strait and Gulf of Guinea remaining piracy hotspots.
Post-trauma care is just one of the ways in which Sailors’ Society helps support seafarers and their families.
In 2015, the charity launched a Crisis Response Centre in Durban, which provides a rapid response trauma care and counselling service for survivors of piracy attacks as well as various disasters at sea.
In April, Sailors’ Society launched a second Crisis Response Centre in Ukraine. Members from the new centre have offered support to a crew who were recently released after being held captive for more than two weeks by pirates off the Nigerian coast.
Sandra Welch, deputy chief executive and director of programme at Sailors’ Society, said: ‘Our Crisis Response Centres provide rapid response trauma care and counselling service for survivors of disasters at sea, such as accidents or piracy attacks. Sailors’ Society transforms lives at home, in port and at sea and it is important that we are able to help not just those directly affected but also their families.’