Tom Mangold presents a harrowing but comprehensive programme about the brutality of Somali pirates
“They torture,” said Tom Mangold. “They kidnap. They brutalise. They murder without pity.” This was how The Sea Gangsters (Radio 4) began, and it never let up in its punchy delivery of scary scenarios. The subject was Somali pirates. “They’re nothing, but nothing, like the Jolly Roger pirates of fiction or the Caribbean,” Mangold insisted.
For all that this heightened presentation sounded a little over the top to begin with, Mangold’s story was comprehensively and clearly told, and he proved a dogged interviewer when faced with flannel. The kidnappings, until recently tolerated by the shipping industry and insurers, now more commonly involve murder, the retention of kidnapped crews to work as slave labour in future hijackings, and new levels of cruelty. “Psychological torment is now commonplace,” Mangold noted.
Piracy has become one of the biggest businesses in Somali, and there is even a piracy stock exchange where investors can reap rewards from ransom payments. If, as some experts suggested, the situation continues to worsen, shipping companies may pull out of waterways carrying 40% of the world’s oil. Meanwhile, almost 800 hostages are still held, and little is being done for them. Would that be the case, Mangold wondered, if they were mostly Caucasian? “Emphatically the answer is no,” came an analyst’s depressing reply.