Coping with Captivity in a maritime hijacking situation

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Piracy has unfortunately become a health and safety risk for seafarers in the maritime industry today. However, little do we know about the impact of a pirate hijacking situation and how seafarers cope. Focusing on negotiation communication, the analysis debouches in a discussion of the dynamics of coping strategies, by investigating 173 authentic audio recordings of communication sequences recorded during a pirate hijacking situation that were donated voluntarily by a shipping company. The Captain assessed and reflected on the course of events in the situation, to which the negotiator responded appropriately, with acknowledging brief responses or psychological aid. This is similar to other highly dynamic decision-making settings, where decision-makers tend to continuously reflect and revise their view of the situation (Eraut 2000). The data is also consistent with the “reflection-in-action” concept by Schön (1983) used by van den Heuvel et al. (Cogn Technol Work 16: 25–45, 2014) in their investigation of communication of police officers in hostage situations. However, the coping dynamics changed when the negotiator’s responses became too minimal. This shows how the context and the individual’s cognitive appraisal of the encounter co-shapes the coping dynamics in the situation. It is urged that pre-piracy care and seafarer training involves practical examples and information about roles and coping dynamics in negotiation communication as part of an orchestrated approach to the scourge of piracy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Maritime University. Journal of Maritime Affairs
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)53-72
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 1. Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Coping strategies
  • Piracy
  • Seafarers
  • negotiation
  • occupational health and safety management


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