Shipping officials launch ‘SOS: Save Our Seafarers’ campaign to help fight piracy

Ship owners and seafarers are calling on ‘people power’ to push their governments to act now and show the political will to resolve the growing Somali piracy crisis before it strangles world trade and before more innocent seafarers are tortured and murdered.

The SOS Save Our Seafarers campaign, launched today by BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Shipping Federation (ISF), Intercargo, INTERTANKO and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), is aimed at encouraging millions of people around the world to heap pressure on their national Governments to crack down on piracy. They are calling on YOUR help.

The Somali piracy crisis affects you and every one of us worldwide. The dramatic recent extension of the pirates’ operating area right across the Indian Ocean** means that there are now no alternative routes to avoid the Somali pirate gangs, especially for tankers coming out of the Gulf. Ship owners and seafarers are re-evaluating their current determination to ensure that these vital trade routes remain open, and are going to have to choose whether to trade through this area or not.

Merchant ships are being attacked daily, running a gauntlet of gunfire and rocket propelled grenade attacks from armed gangs of Somali pirates. Over 800 seafarers are currently held hostage on their hijacked ships. Subjected to physical and psychological abuse for months at a time, they are held ransom for millions of dollars.

Yet even when caught red handed by naval forces, 80% of pirates are released to attack again. Why? Because the world’s politicians don’t realise the severity of this critical situation. The governments give the orders. The governments hold the key to resolving this crisis. But they seem unwilling to face reality and act. Their brief to the naval forces is simply to deter and disrupt, unless it involves a national interest.

Enough is enough. The Round Table of international shipping associations (RT) and the ITF are placing hard-hitting advertisements in key major international newspapers on 1 March to kick off the SOS Save Our Seafarers campaign which highlights the plight of seafarers and, with six specific requests, brings pressure to bear on governments to show more political will and fewer legalistic excuses in dealing with Somali piracy.

Six specific requests

We are specifically asking for governments to recognise the threat to our seafarers and the world economy, and take the necessary steps to eradicate piracy at sea and ashore by:

  • Reducing the effectiveness of the easily-identifiable pirate motherships.
  • Authorising naval forces to detain pirates and deliver them for prosecution and punishment.
  • Fully criminalising all acts of piracy and intent to commit piracy under national laws in accordance with their mandatory duty to co-operate to suppress piracy under international conventions.
  • Increasing naval assets available in this area.
  • Providing greater protection and support for seafarers.
  • Tracing and criminalising the organisers and financiers behind the criminal networks.

SOS Save our Seafarers

The RT and the ITF have launched a new website for the SOS Save Our Seafarers campaign  http://www.saveourseafarers.com/. Just two clicks and supporters can send a pre-prepared letter, signed by them, to their chosen heads of government. The website will also have up-to-the minute information on the piracy situation, and an SOS TV page with film clips and pictures.

Source: BIMCO