THE CHAIN LOCKER
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Shipowners form human SOS - click for MarineLink story
The 21st Asian Shipowners Forum, meeting in Australia, had piracy at the top of their agenda. To illustrate this, and show their support for the SaveOurSeafarers campaign, the owners got together to form the gigantic SOS shown in this photo (click the photo to go to the story on MarineLink.com).

 The Forum went strongly on record that not enough is being done to combat piracy. “Not only are these dangerous Somali pirates free to roam the Indian Ocean at will attacking and hijacking ships, they have not spared ships anchored in sovereign waters. Also, Somali pirates may serve as a strong inspiration for criminals in other states,” stated Mr. Patrick Phoon, ASF Safe Navigation & Environment Committee Chairman. “The safety and welfare of our seafarers and their families must remain of utmost importance. Discounting the economic cost of anywhere between US$3.5 and US$8 billion a year, we cannot ignore the lasting physical and psychological trauma suffered by our seafarers at the hands of these merciless outlaws.”

The Committee recognized that adoption of the Best Management Practices for Protection Against Somalia-Based Piracy (BMP4) were insufficient, by themselves, to protect shipping from piracy.

They also supported calls for the UN to establish an anti-piracy military task force, which had been proposed earlier by the Round Table of International Shipowners Associations (RTisa) - see this story from gCaptain for details of that plan. Basically, it calls for a dedicated UN force to deploy on ships passing through pirate-infested areas, and would apparently cover ALL ships, extending to everyone the protection private armed guards have provided so successfully to date, for those who have been willing to pay.

The Forum is the latest group to call for more to be done. But the world - aside from shipping interests who are directly affected, and their representative countries - remains fundamentally indifferent. Being human, everyone sees this through his own lens, so shipowners, for instance, tend to see the effect on business first - though to their credit they are concerned with seafarers' welfare too. Their support for SOS is appreciated!

But we still have seafarers who have been held for long periods, and seafarers who have been mistreated, tortured, or killed. Don't forget the MV Iceberg I sailors - 24 men who have been held for over two years, with one despairing crewman victim of suicide - who have been basically ignored since their shipowner went out of business and abandoned them. Their fate shows the lack of any useful mechanism for helping victims of piracy, aside from direct payment of ransom by the company involved. Surely the world can find better ways to deal with this problem, and to free the hundreds of hostages being held right now in unjust, abusive confinement.

Help raise piracy's profile by taking action yourself - support SOS, keep your friends informed, and do all you can to educate folks who are not directly involved in our industry, and who may not appreciate the magnitude of the problem. I know we'd all want somebody working on our side if we were being held hostage.

And tell us here what you are doing, so we can help, too. Thanks!