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Council concerns further raised over piracy / mistreatment of seafarers being held by pirates

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council
    Ahoy Members and Friends. Piracy - all aspects of it - is a real concern. Our luncheon with the Propeller Club Tuesday, May 24th, will focus on it. You can
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 19, 2011
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      Ahoy Members and Friends.
      Piracy - all aspects of it - is a real concern. Our luncheon with the Propeller Club Tuesday, May 24th, will focus on it. You can find more than you may care to know on the world wide web.
      The relatively new website www.SaveOurSeafarers.com states the case well. Please go there and read the pages.
      Below is our council E-mail to President Obama courtesy of Save Our Seafarers. Also below is the text from the Human Cost and Economic Cost pages.
      The International Maritime Organization has as its World Maritime Day theme for 2011, "Piracy: orchestrating the response." World Maritime Day 2011 will be observed during the week of 26 to 30 September. Below is recent correspondence from the IMO on the subject. Anticipate our council September luncheon (exact date and place to be determined) to focus on the subject again.
      I would like to see the Navy League address this issue at its June Board of Directors meeting and send a letter to the president as well.
      Our Navy is stretched thin. An international coordinated response is necessary. I am thinking of our WWII response of convoys with armed escorts to reduce the threat of the U-boats might be a partial solution. I definitely don't believe pirates should be captured only to be set free again to ply their trade. The IMO's action plan should be further implemented.
      Please reread my message:
      Sent: Friday, April 15, 2011 3:15 PM
      Subject: [PMMC-NLUS] Piracy at record high - May 24 luncheon to address situation
      I have been posting to a Linkedin Maritime Executive discussion on the subject:
      Please keep all seafarers in your thoughts and prayers. It is bad enough to face working conditions aboard some vessels, storms, but increased piracy. It's a scourge that can be greatly reduced with a strong show of force.
      The White House
      1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
      Washington, DC 20500
       04 / 19 / 2011
      Dear President Obama,


      Violent acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden have spiraled out of control into the Arabian Sea and the entire Indian Ocean. Never in history has such a vast sea area been ceded to armed criminality. Urgent action is required by all governments to take the necessary steps to eradicate this unlawful scourge. 

      The threat to the flow of world trade is unprecedented, throttling the Suez Canal routes as well as oil flows out of the Middle East Gulf - 40 percent of shipborne oil passes through this area. Ship owners have been reassessing their options. Recent reports indicate that piracy is already costing the global economy $7-12 billion per year.   

      There are currently more than 35 ships being held captive for ransom with a shocking total of almost 800 seafarers held hostage. The human cost to the captive seafarers held in appallingly stressful conditions - including physical torture and psychological harm - cannot be adequately calculated. The stark figures do not include the much greater number of seafarers facing gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades as they skillfully evade capture in the face of increasingly determined and aggressive attacks. Loss of life has already occurred and more is inevitable. 

      A significant number of warships and other military assets have been deployed to the region. These efforts are deeply appreciated but, in the face of the current escalation of piratical activity, and particularly with the escalating use of captured merchant ships as motherships to extend the pirates’ reach and capability, these naval forces are simply insufficient in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.

      There is an urgent need to return law and order to one of the most vital intersections of trading routes in the world. If nothing is done, the world economy is at risk.

      I specifically ask for your government to take the necessary steps to eradicate piracy at sea and
      shore by:

      • Reducing the effectiveness of  the easily-identifiable motherships
      • Authorizing naval forces to hold pirates and deliver them for prosecution and punishment
      • Fully criminalizing 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 criminalizing the organizers and financiers behind the criminal networks

      Yours sincerely,

      Phelps Hobart, President
      Pacific Merchant Marine Council
      Navy League of the United States
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Media
      To: Media
      Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 6:44 AM
      Subject: IMO Briefing: Concerns raised over mistreatment of seafarers being held by pirates

      Briefing 24/2011

      18 April 2011


      IMO expresses concern over mistreatment of seafarers held hostage by pirates


      In the context of the recently-released Indian ship M/V Asphalt Venture, IMO reiterates its condemnation of all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships and expresses its concern over the treatment of seafarers being held hostage by pirates operating in waters off the coast of Somalia. In particular, it condemns their use as “human shields” on board recently hijacked ships used as “motherships”, or ashore.


      The M/V Asphalt Venture was hijacked by Somali pirates on 29 September 2010 and was released on 15 April 2011. However, six officers and one rating had been removed from the ship and, at the time of release, were being held at an undisclosed location ashore, where they remain.

      IMO is concerned for the welfare of all innocent seafarers being held in captivity, and is working towards their timely release.


      Using seafarers as human shields to continue to engage in piracy - one of the most heinous of crimes against humanity at sea - is totally unacceptable.

      The IMO World Maritime Day theme for 2011, “Piracy: orchestrating the response” – and its associated action plan - embrace the concept that the safety and well-being of seafarers should be of paramount importance. IMO therefore supports the “SOS - Save our Seafarers” campaign (www.saveourseafarers.com) recently launched by the shipping industry.


      IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

      Web site: www.imo.org

      For further information please contact:

      Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 (media@... )

      Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (media@... ).

      Public Information Services (External Relations Office)
      International Maritime Organization (IMO)
      Every year IMO celebrates World Maritime Day. The exact date is left to individual governments but is usually celebrated during the last week in September. The day is used to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the marine environment and to emphasize a particular aspect of IMO's work. 

      World Maritime Day 2011 will be observed during the week of 26 to 30 September.  At the Organization’s Headquarters, the Day will be celebrated on Thursday, 29 September 2011. 
      The Action Plan to promote the 2011 World Maritime Day theme was launched on 3 February 2011.

      Seafarers putting to sea across the vast areas of the Indian Ocean, where armed gangs of pirates operate, do so with understandable terror and trepidation.  They are not warriors but to earn a living they are putting their well-being and even their lives at risk.

      Despite elaborate preparation and defensive strategies, attacks can happen very swiftly and are often at night.  A small ‘skiff’ dispatched from an innocent-looking mothership pulls alongside the vessel, often undetected if the crew are occupied with their duties or sleeping.   The pirates sometimes announce their presence by firing an RPG, or two, and a burst of automatic gunfire, but generally prefer stealth.  They board with ropes and ladders.

      Almost before they know it, the crew are overwhelmed.  Any resistance is futile and likely to be met with unrestrained violence.  The captors are usually ‘high’ on an opiate drug known as khat, which emboldens and overexcites them.  It also inclines them to sadistic exhibitions of bravado.

      From that moment on, life for the seafarers descends into a nightmare of deprivation, starvation, thirst, squalor, captivity, restraint, isolation from family and friends and worse

      If negotiations with the vessel’s insurers become too protracted, the pirate gangs’ response is to torture their prisoners.  We mean medieval tortures - attaching excruciatingly painful devices to the genitals, prolonged incarceration in airless, utterly dark freezers at sub-zero temperatures, beatings with AK 47 butts and muzzles, sticks or clubs; being strung up on ropes, akin to a crucifixion in unspeakable agony.  

      Released seafarers speak of losing hope, losing their faith and losing their mental stability as they and their colleagues suffer weeks and months of this monstrous, ill-deserved abuse.

      On release, many captives are skeletal, damaged, traumatised and broken in mind and spirit.  Although younger seafarers often have a chance to recover and resume their lives, older hostages rarely return to sea.  They and their families pay for the misfortune of being captured with a lifetime of hardship, poverty, illness and depression.  For many, witnessing the torture of their fellow men leaves indelible mental scars.

      The hostages’ lives become defined by the permanent corrosive tragedy of being unable to surmount the unpunished injustice they have suffered. That is the human cost of piracy. Wrecked lives, wrecked families, destroyed livelihoods and lost faith.

      Both the number and severity of hijackings by gangs of Somali criminals is escalating. There is a growing economic cost to the outrage of piracy, which we are all paying.  As ever, those who already have the least are paying most dearly. 

      On average, the mighty shipping industry moves about one tonne of material for everyone on the planet each year; food, fuel, raw materials, manufactured goods and so forth.  Of course, that means four-or-five tonnes for the inhabitants of wealthy, prosperous nations and meager amounts for the poorer ones; meager amounts on which they depend for their lives.

      It’s fairly safe to say that without the shipping industry, half the world’s population would walk and the rest would starve.

      Around 20 per cent of the world’s shipped goods pass through waters that are now infested with pirates.  Few vessels are safe - from supertankers to small vessels.  Some ships have the power, security measures and maneuverability to evade attack but many others simply do not.

      The price of rocketing insurance premiums is ultimately paid by the end-user of the goods being moved. The buck stops with you and me.

      Piracy is indirectly costing between $8 billion and $12 billion a year. Ransoms cost the insurers about $350 million a year.  That’s a lot of money finding its way into the pockets and bank accounts of the cruel and corrupt crime networks that have sprung up to process it.  The actual pirates are penniless peasant fishermen, dragooned into crime under the threat of violence to their families or the reward of a modest payment; perhaps a few thousand dollars.

      The global economy can’t withstand the strangulation of one fifth of its commercial arteries.  If piracy prevents the free transportation of goods through the entire Indian Ocean, as it already threatens to do, the world’s economy will hemorrhage.  The wealthiest nations will deteriorate most rapidly. The poorer nations will suffer the greatest pain.   

    • usaseapower
      Piracy remains the Council s #1 international concern. Here is some recent bad news: Phelps ______________________________________ Piracy: Attacks Getting
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 20, 2011
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        Piracy remains the Council's #1 international concern. Here is some recent bad news:



        Piracy: Attacks Getting Bigger, Bolder

        Thursday, July 14, 2011

        According to data released July 14, 2011, by the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks off Somalia and in the GoA/Indian Ocean region climbed dramatically in the first six months of this year. Figures reveal that there were 266 attacks on vessels in this period compared with 196 attacks in 2010.

        "In the last six months, Somali pirates attacked more vessels than ever before and they're taking higher risks," IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said. They fired on ships for the first time during the monsoon season last month, he said. Pirates hijacked one in eight vessels attacked in the first half of the year, compared with one in four a year earlier, the report showed. The most recent successful hijacking took place on April 30th, with 44 further attempted attacks since then, the IMB said. Somali pirates took 361 sailors hostage and kidnapped 13 in the first half of 2011.

        The number of violent and organized attacks off West Africa also increased, the IMB said. According to the report, monsoon weather in the Indian Ocean region that began in early June displaced pirates to the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea. It called the 18 attacks reported in the Red Sea area since May 20th, "a cause for concern." Three attacks in the Indian Ocean in adverse weather showed threats remained during monsoons for the first time, the IMB said, citing winds of 34 miles an hour and swells of 4.5 meters (15 feet).

        "It may be that these recent Indian Ocean incidents are a sign of desperation on behalf of pirates, or that there are many more pirate action groups operating now than there were in 2010, particularly outside the Gulf of Aden," the IMB said. The IMB cited robust ship hardening and security measures as well as the presence of EU NAVFOR as mitigating factors in the wake of recent, unsuccessful attacks on merchant vessels.

        Despite the increasingly desperate tactics used by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Red Sea areas, Neptune Maritime Security has an incident-free transit record, and offers both unarmed and armed security solutions for all types of vessel. Neptune Maritime Security is happy to work closely not only with its clients but also with other government agencies to ensure the safe passage of vessels.

        --- In PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com, "Pacific Merchant Marine Council" <pmmc@...> wrote:
        > Ahoy Members and Friends.
        > Piracy - all aspects of it - is a real concern. Our luncheon with the Propeller Club Tuesday, May 24th, will focus on it. You can find more than you may care to know on the world wide web.
        > The relatively new website www.SaveOurSeafarers.com states the case well. Please go there and read the pages.
        > a.. Home
        > a.. Our campaign
        > a.. Human cost
        > a.. Economic cost
        > a.. SaveOurSeafarers TV
        > a.. Latest news
        > a.. Campaign resources
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