On October 23, 2013, the oil supply ship C-Retriever was attacked by armed pirates near the coast of Nigeria. Pirates armed with AK-47s swarmed the ship, using a metal grinder to get into the engine room where 10 members of the crew had attempted to secure themselves. Armed with nothing but a water hose, Captain Wren Thomas, a seven-year employee of Edison Chouest Offshore and an ex-Marine, managed to electrocute one pirate, but it wasn’t enough. Ultimately, the ship was hijacked, and Captain Wren Thomas and the vessel’s engineer were taken hostage.
A short time after the incident, the C-Retriever was found abandoned in a nearby port, and there were real fears that Thomas and the engineer were dead. Instead, they were being held for ransom in a pirate camp in the Nigerian swamps. The two Americans suffered abuse at the hands of violent crack-smoking pirates, starvation, and deplorable living conditions while waiting for negotiation of their release. Eighteen days later, the two were finally freed.
Five months later, Thomas still has trouble talking about what he went through in those 18 days, but he’s ready to start speaking up. While there are still some things he can’t discuss, Thomas has taken steps to retain Attorney Brian Beckcom, of Houston-based VB Attorneys, and start opening up about the life-changing ordeal he was put through and the problems with the offshore traffic that has arisen around the newly booming Nigerian oil industry. Ultimately, he wants people to know that pirate attacks are a reality, and a lot needs to be done to make sure other crews don’t have to go through what he and his engineer barely managed to survive.
While no legal action has been taken at this point, many questions still remain, and Beckcom says that, “Nothing is being ruled out right now.” Thomas has expressed his disappointment in how his employer, Edison Chouest Offshore, has responded to pirate activity—both before and after the incident that changed his life. His complaints include a lack of security on vessels traveling in high-risk waters, a weak response to pirate attacks when they do happen, a lack of support for crewmembers when they return from an ordeal, and other serious safety concerns.
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