What we expect in the future? Piracy will not go away, it is shifting and some people are deluded about piracy and criminalization. The Somali pirates are not poor fishermen. It's a complex international business model. In 2014 there's going to be a big change in Africa because of the funding goals and the only thing that is left in its place is armed security guards to take up the slack. Also, we have the other dimension, the Yemen, which is now destabilized. The commitment of war ships in the area is being reviewed and probably reduced in 2014/15. It's going to be a checkpoint, it's going to be difficult and there is possibility piracy to arise again. West Africa is a nightmare. Pirate probing attempts have not diminished, so the problem has not gone but is waiting. And no matter what everybody else says, the ship-owners have to foot the bill.
Does crew receive weapons training and ships carry their own armoury? Of course this is contradictory on the concept of merchant ships, but it can be done in times of war. Also does the definition of a merchant ship need to be redefined?
Are ships redesigned to trade through known piracy areas? This would be a major investment with unknown return. A lot of rules have to be rewritten. How would the ship-owner justify the additional expense/cost?
Or is a collective merger of all of the above needed?
There are a lot of different things to be considered. However, there are a lot of industries working towards pirates and help to stop the access of pirates.
Piracy and the MLC 2006
The MLC 2006 Regulation 2.5 deals with the repatriation of seafarers. Can this be used to protect seafarers if they have been hijacked and held hostage? In many cases seafarers become abandons if they become hijacked and everybody passes the background about who is responsible for what. Can this be used to stop abandonment due to the time the ship is held?
The majority of ship owners have acted with their P&I Clubs to deliver more than is required. But, there are still the cases where it is maritime international charities, trade unions and people from the countries of origins of the crew that have had to act and intervene to ensure that the seafarers and their families have been taken care of.
Piracy and the Fatigue (mental, physical) of Crew
As the areas of potential pirate attacks increase then the ship has to be prepared and through the ISPS Code raise its level of security. This increases the crew work load and this makes the hours of work increase. But in addition there is the problem of stress on the crew due to the potential of a pirate attack taking place. These are factors that increase the possibility of an accident / incident taking place due to the fatigue experienced by the crew. If you have crew fatigue, then accidents happen. This is a factor that needs to be addressed before an event occurs not after an event, because it's generally known that piracy is not going away. There is not the will in the world; there is not the money available for the infrastructure projects in these countries to take them. Some of the pirates now in Somalia are offering ships escort services, so if you pay them they will not board you and you will not get attacked! That's a quite clever idea!
Fact is Stranger than Fiction
The case of the Ocean Centurion raises some worrying facts. The ship is a tanker registered in the Marshall Islands and was attacked in international waters by pirates who looted the ship. The captain, Sunil James, an Indian National took the ship to Togo national waters to report the incident. He is now in a Togo jail accused of "allegedly conniving with the pirates". The basis for this case is because it has been reported that a couple of the pirates were Indian nationals or of Indian extract. It would be interesting to see how the evidence was obtained to make this connection to legally hold the master in this affair. And this goes on; a piracy criminality, criminality of the seafarer, especially criminality of the ship masters; you would be surprised of how quickly it's growing. And a number of ship masters and officers in crew are in prison around the world.
Finally, it's worth mentioning the MARTHA PROJECT, which deals with fatigue factors at sea and it is taking forward the work done at the Project Horizon. IFSMA is a stakeholder within MARTHA project funded by the EU and would ask others to look at the work being done and how seafarers are affected by fatigue. There is no hidden agenda behind this work but a lot to be learned.
Above article is an edited version of Capt.John Dickie's presentation during 2013 SAFETY4SEA Athens Forum
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