The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award is bestowed upon the person or organisation that has done the most to provide the highest quality of welfare services and facilities to seafarers.
Who is Chirag Bahri?
Chirag Bahri hails from India, and once worked as a seafarer.
In 2010 Chirag's vessel, where he was serving as Assistant Second Engineer, was hijacked by Somali pirates, and the crew were held hostage for eight months. Chirag has described this as being a "traumatic experience for me and my family to undergo the difficult and painful ordeal". During this time, he was subject to inhumane treatment, including violence and torture, exposure to the elements, loss of dignity and utter hopelessness. After eight months, the ransom was finally paid and his freedom was secured. Chirag and the rest of the crew were then repatriated.
After returning from captivity in January 2011, Chirag became actively involved in welfare work for seafarers and their families, working hard to raise awareness of piracy and its effect on seafarers and their families.
How has Chirag Bahri assisted seafarers?
Rose George in her book Deep Sea and Foreign Going says "A hostage is a rare thing to see. Some sign non-disclosure agreements with their employers. Some tire of telling their stories and never want to see a clipboard or voice recorder again. Many go straight back to sea because that is their life. What else can they do?" However, Chirag is an exception to this rule, as he has worked tirelessly to aid seafarers and families affected by piracy.
Chirag has been a lifeline and a source of hope for families with loved ones abandoned in Somalia, visiting their homes, staying in touch by phone and email and making himself available 24 hours a day. He has been instrumental in linking families affected by piracy with support networks, as well as enabling those in the maritime welfare sector to join together in the delivery of frontline services.
What does winning this award mean to Chirag?
"I am really honoured to receive the Welfare Personality of the Year award because it recognises the work being done in South Asia for the seafarers who have been hijacked by the Somali pirates...This award recognises that the seafarers and their families have been traumatised, and this award really means a lot of care and affection from the whole maritime community [is being sent to] the seafarers and their families."
What has happened since winning?
As recognition of his work, Chirag has since been honoured by the Director General of Shipping, Ministry of Shipping India and Foreign Shipowners Association (FOSMA).