By Ryan Skinner (email)
Piracy's a subject I long ago decided not to touch with a barge-pole. Why? It doesn't need attention from the likes of me, and so many people know so much more than I. Let them fill the airwaves with ideas and opinions.
It's a tragedy that piracy has not gained more attention, though. An utterly solvable problem of heart-rending proportions taking place in full openness has generated less overall attention than, say, one memo from a Nokia CEO.
Don't blame the public. Until these pirates are stealing our women and raping our cattle, we're not going to give it two thoughts. It's not an issue that is touching people where they'll feel it.
The industry has seemingly crafted pretty strong economic arguments against piracy. I've heard cost of piracy figures ranging from $1 billion up to $12 billion (can you say piracy bubble?). I'm sure these facts and opinions get the creaking machinery of the bureaucracy moving, but there's no urgency.
I've seen little in the way of emotional appeals. The closest it came was during the Maersk Alabama incident, but that story turned into an action movie featuring a sniper.
Suspend your disbelief for a sec. I see Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes in the humble home of a Ukranian second mate, who describes the harrowing ordeal of an extended period of incarceration on his own ship at the hands of pirates. Stahl asks the mate's young daughter "how did you feel when your daddy was kidnapped?" The young girl cannot explain her fear, but we can see it better than any words can convey.
Stahl interviews one of the warlord pirate leaders in Puntland, and a couple 16-year-old pirates who are about to board a mother ship. "Why do you do this?" Through the translator, we hear them say "It's a living."
Stahl talks to shipowners, negotiators on both sides, IMO leaders and Navy admirals. She paints the picture of an entirely avoidable state of affairs, beginning with a collapsed state harried by fish poachers and illegal dumping and ending with a menace to a salt-of-the-earth workforce.
Who's going to pitch this story to 60 Minutes? Take Producers David Gelber, Howard Rosenberg, Shachar Bar-On, or Associate Producer Sam Hornblower. All have friends of friends in shipping. Go ahead and look them up in LinkedIn. Maybe you know someone who knows them, or another producer.
It's all about the stories. Who knows a seafarer with a piracy story that hits heart-strings? Our piracy experts have countless colorful sources on both sides of the piracy equation. We know the navies, the IMO and the shipping industry will talk about it.
For a producer of gripping television documentaries, this story has a bow on it.
Here are some examples of other people trying to put some color to this story, if on a more modest scale than 60 Minutes: