Word hit the wires today that the Johansen family of Denmark were ransomed. Seven months and three million dollars later, a family with kids between the ages of 12 and 16 are finally on their way home.
Admittedly, it’s a better fate than what befell the Scott and Jean Adam, but that’s rather small comfort in the aggregate.
Disregard any such romance about being taken by pirates you might have heard about or read. Unlike tales along the lines of this one, being a hostage is a lot like being in an armed conflict, with long periods of boredom punctuated by seconds of terror, except that hostages don’t get to shoot back. It’s a horrible existence that I have yet to hear anyone say in recalling their captivity, “Oh yeah, totally dug it.” And being held for seven months for a young kid about the age of my son just does not sound like a great source of fond childhood memories, sorry.
Which makes the whole issue of kidnapping as an activity for pirates to pursue difficult to justify. Yes, a reaction like mine from the victims’ loved ones shows how viable a tactic it is, in that ransoms are more likely to come quickly for people than cargo. But even putting aside the pure economics, the hidden costs should make one pause: The raw visceral reaction toward hostage takers that makes them more likely to pay up also makes them more likely to go after them when the business is over.
When piracy moves away from being economics by other means and becomes personal, the emotions get in the way. A good example is what happened to the crew that took the SV Quest almost immediately after the incident went south. And if there’s no immediate resolution, there can be a festering revenge to worry about, as the Sicilian pirates learned after Julius Caesar’s ransom was paid.
And sometimes, he reaction you’re looking for to get that quick payday just isn’t there, as an incident with a certain red haired person can demonstrate…