PIRACY: Once contained by international policing efforts, piracy appears to be staging a comeback. The Marine Express (above) had a lucky escape thanks to Captain Rodney Barretto (inset)

Captain Rodney Barretto, in a marathon six-day process on the high seas cut off from the world, managed to win over the pirates that had hijacked his ship, and convinced them to leave with no harm at all to his 21-strong crew and the ship’s oil cargo intact

By GO Team

GOOD Captain on the high seas is one who leads from the front even in the face of adversities. No one exemplified this better than Mulund-Mumbai lad Rodney Barretto, the skipper of the oil tanker that disappeared from tracking radars for nearly six days from February 1 to 5, 2018, in the piracy-plagued sea route off the Benin coast in the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa.

All communication with the vessel ‘Marine Express’ of the Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern Shipping was lost in those six days and Capt Barretto relied purely on tact, tenacity, his genial nature, ‘divine intervention’ (as his mom suggests) or simply luck to win over the group of pirates.

His calm and ‘Gandhian’ attitude through the ordeal helped him win the hearts of the captors, and thus regained control to steer the vessel with 21 men under him unharmed. The 45-year-old then steered his ship into safer waters and on its onward journey to its destination.

Goan Observer was unable to establish direct contact with Capt Barretto. However, a close family source who did, told us that for close to 6 days that the ship was in control of the pirates, he was held hostage and engaged in nerve-wrecking negotiations with the hijackers. In all those days and nights on the edge, the rest of the 21 crew, were herded into cabins in the ships lower deck levels.

In the end, Barretto prevailed, with heart and talk, winning over the pirates who left doing no harm whatsoever to him, his 21 men, his ship and his company — the Anglo Eastern Shipping Company. Reportedly, no ransom was paid as is normally the price for freedom of a ship in this piracy plagued sea route. Just a month before this episode, another vessel the product tanker ‘MT Barret’ had also suffered the same fate off the coast of Benin.  

On January 9, UK shipowner Union Maritime lost contact with the Barrett, which was at anchor off Cotonou. The Barrett had been taken by pirates, and her crew were in captivity for six days while a “resolution process” moved forward and the crew and vessel were only released after paying a hefty ransom.

Not all such sea piracy episodes end up triumphantly off the coast of West Africa. Scores of seamen, Captain Barretto included, wouldn’t for the love of life wish to be in such stressful situations again or ever. But, these are among the number of unavoidable occupational hazards faced in sailing the high seas for a living. It’s hardly a matter of choice for them, and their point is as raised by several Goan seafarers we spoke to: are these life-threatening hazards and distress situations in the line of duty accounted for in the take-home packages they get?

Clearly, the Anglo Eastern Shipping Company owes Capt Barretto big time, and of course, the 21-member crew of their ship ‘Marine Express’.

Maritime Carnival in Goa from April 19-21

Goa has a centuries old maritime tradition and culture with thousands of Goans sailing the seas for a living. It therefore is no surprise that Goa has been chosen to host the first edition of the ‘Offing Maritime Carnival’, a three-day event from April 19 to 21, in South Goa.

This is poised to be a mega event that encompasses the second edition of the coveted ‘Indian Maritime Choice Awards’ and ‘ Naughtica 2018 ’ (Inter college fest of cadets/trainees) – as one event.

This year, the events included for Cadets/ Trainees are: Battle of Acoustic Bands, Troupe Dance Contest, Short Film Making Contest, Personality Contest – Mr. Naughtica, Personality Contest – Ms. Naughtica, Mimicry Contest, Solo Singing Contest, Futsal, Badminton Tournament, Table Tennis Tournament, Engineer It,  Electrifying Contest,  Knotty Skills, Cooking Competition, Doodle Art Competition, Beat Boxing Battle, etc.

The categories for the ‘Indian Maritime Choice Awards’ include: Best Employers of Dry, Cargo, Tankers, Offshore Vessels and Gas Carriers, Best Employers of Cruise Ships, Best Trainers for Nautical, Engineering, Electrical, Offshore , Soft Skills and ECDIS Courses,  Service Providers, Industry’s choice of Medical Service Provider,  Industry’s choice of Marine Travel Partner, Industry’s choice of Safety Gear Supplier, Industry’s choice of Ship Chandler, Industry’s choice of Port Agency, Industry’s choice of Guest House, Industry’s choice of Design & Engineering Consultants, Industry’s choice of Communication Services Provider (Voice, Calling Cards and Data), Industry’s choice of ECDIS.

Categories for Crew Employers, Training Institutes and Trainers will be voted by Mariners online (Nominations closed). Categories of Service Providers will be voted by Shipping Companies (Nominations open till March 1, 2018 – To nominate your company, write to info@offing.biz)

The event will be attended by 800+ attendees in Goa.


THE relatively big salaries, places visited instantly comes to mind but not the perils a seafarer faces, says Gavi Coutinho, a second engineer sailing the seas.

“The perils of the sea can take a big toll on us. The working environment, stringent rules, tight schedules and a life of solitude and loneliness isn’t very pleasant. And, sometimes there’s a situation where all  the courage and strength seems lost — pirate attacks” says Coutinho, pointing out that Capt Rodney Barretto and his crew on ‘Marine Express’ went through an horrendous experience which cannot even be imagined.

Piracy prone routes are termed high-risk areas and seafarers are given an USD 1000 allowance in addition to salary. But is it commensurate to the risk?

“There have been scores of stories of victims who have gone through piracy, and trust me, some of them are terrifying and gory. Mostly it leaves a deep imprint and affects the psyche. It may take years or even a lifetime to heal and can affect the whole family,” he said.

The extra allowance to work these high-risk areas is appreciated but, IS IT ENOUGH?  What if the person is traumatized for life?  The possibility is that, he would never go back to sea.  It is a need of the hour that seafarers be given some kind of an insurance cover so that if a trauma due to piracy leaves him incapacitated, he can at least live a decent life and support his family.

“I think the IMO, the P&I clubs, the ship owners and all the other stakeholders in the shipping industry need to collectively give a thought to such an insurance / protection plan for seafarers working these high-risk routes,” Coutinho adds.


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