The keynote presentation was the SOS SaveOurSeafarers Campaign
The World Maritime University’s (WMU) International Conference on Piracy at Sea (ICOPAS) attracted a good international gathering of over 400 people this week in Malmo, Sweden.
The keynote presentation on the second day was on the subject of the industry’s SOS SaveOurSeafarers campaign. Bill Box, Secretary of the campaign’s Steering Group gave delegates some background to SOS and an update of what it has achieved in its first 7 months.
There were some useful insights offered from the hijacking in 2008 of the general cargo ship CEC Future which stayed under pirate control for 71 days. Gary Porter, Corporate Security Manager of Clipper Ferries/Ro-Ro, shared the lessons learned from this incident:
- Piracy is an industry – money is what counts.
- Information sharing is crucial.
- Prepare for the unexpected – a flexible approach is important.
- Prepare for the mental tiredness of all those involved.
- Prior preparation prevents poor performance.
Cdr Martin Ewence, Maritime Security Advisor to EUNAVFOR, talked of the need for flexibility in dealing with the piracy scourge, so that naval forces and shipping interests can adapt to changing pirate tactics. It is vital that ship operators work on accordance with the latest Best Management Practice (BMP4), he stressed, adding that coordination between all parties is crucial. He spoke of Operation Ketting (April to June 2011) which consisted of a naval force denying freedom of movement to suspected pirate skiffs and dhow motherships along the Somali Coast adjacent to the most active pirate camps. Dhow motherships were targeted as they arrived at/left the coast. Pirates were bottled in on the beach, and a number were killed, injured and/or captured.
A strong team from the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) provided a powerful and engaging session on the humanitarian response to piracy at sea. Peter Swift, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the MPHRP, spoke of the apprehension felt by seafarers and their families when a trip through the troubled Arabian Sea is on the cards, and they do not know whether they are going away for a few months, or for a year.
Roy Paul, MPHRP’s Programme Co-ordinator pointed to a survey where seafarers and their families talked about their fear of a pirate attack, and the families came over as much more fearful than the seafarers themselves. Out of 320 seafarers’ families, 84 felt no fear, 54 felt some fear, 182 felt high fear. But out of 229 seafarers, 135 felt no fear of attack, 51 felt some fear, 43 felt high fear.
Toon van de Sande, MPHRP’s Assistant Programme Coordinator, emphasised the importance of pre-piracy training. “A seafarer trained for any act of piracy will turn out to be a better seafarer anyway“, he said, adding that building resistance before an incident, and resilience during an incident, are important for ready recovery after the incident.
Calixto Caniete, Master of the mv Renuar, which was held by Somali pirates for 133 days, spoke movingly of their experience of what he described as fear, helplessness and hopelessness. The trauma of such an incident, said Colm Humphries, MPHRP’s Psychological Consultant, lies in the seafarers’ loss of security, stability and reasonable predictability, with the traumatic event disrupting their normal psychological functioning in the short term and in the longer term.
Caniete’s advice to ships going through the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea is to have security on board in the form of armed guards. And yet interestingly Roy Paul quoted figures from a MPHRP survey which show that out of 272 seafarers attacked by Somali pirates, 108 were for armed guards, but 164 were against armed guards.
The WMU ICOPAS will be issuing a declaration after the conference. Some of the key points that will be made are:
- There is no such thing as an acceptable level of piracy.
- There is need for political unity to deter and defeat piracy.
- There is clear growth in the use of violence; seafarers should not be subjected to this.
- States are to honour their obligation to prosecute pirates and update and amend legal codes to include conspiracy to commit piracy.
- Bring to an end the practise of catch and release through greater political will and better cooperation with law enforcement.
- Support should be provided for the work of Interpol in gathering evidence immediately after the release of a ship and its crew.
- Innovative international tools are needed to overcome the constraints of national boundaries and jurisdiction in dealing with piracy.
- Prosecute and commit pirates to prison elsewhere, but with post-trial transfer back to Somalia in accordance with international standards and human rights.
- Create a maritime enforcement mandate within a Somali EEZ (EEZ not yet recognised since Somalia is a failed state) to protect Somali and international interests.
Source : INTERTANKO
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