IMO, shipping industry, seafarers unite in seeking UN response to piracy and release of hostages held in Somalia
Support from the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon to secure the release of hostages - seafarers, in the main - currently being held by pirates in Somalia has been sought, via a letter jointly signed by IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos and heads of international shipping and seafarer organizations.
In the letter they asked Mr. Ban to draw the attention of the Security Council to the unacceptable plight of the 395 hostages currently being held by pirates in Somalia and seek to develop a dynamic approach that might secure their release.
"In this, the Year of the Seafarer, your early positive response to our request will be greatly appreciated by the world's seafarers and the international maritime community," the letter adds.
The letter was drafted following the 14 July meeting of shipping industry organizations and representatives of seafarer organizations held at IMO (see Briefing 39/2010 and was signed by IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos; Mr. Spyros Polemis (Chairman, International Chamber of Shipping and President, International Shipping Federation); Mr. Robert Lorenz-Meyer (President, BIMCO); Mr. Graham Westgarth (Chairman, International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO)); Mr. Nicos A. Pappadakis (Chairman, International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO)); Mr. Jon Whitlow (Secretary, Seafarers' Section, International Transport Workers' Federation); and The Revd. Tom Heffer (Secretary General, The Mission to Seafarers).
The 14 July meeting was also attended by Mr. Marianito Roque, until recently Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment in the Government of the Republic of the Philippines - a country that supplies approximately 25% of the world's seafarers and whose nationals have been the principal victims of acts of piracy and consequent hostage-taking, particularly in waters off the coast of Somalia.
The letter to Mr. Ban notes that the IMO Council decided, at its 104th session in June, that the theme for World Maritime Day 2011 and, thus, the thematic priority for the Organization and the shipping industry throughout next year, should be "Piracy: orchestrating the response".
Notwithstanding the various and multi-faceted efforts made to address the scourge of piracy (including by the United Nations, IMO, UNODC, the European Union, NATO, individual Governments and the shipping industry) and the relative success they are having, especially with respect to averting attacks on cargo ships chartered by the World Food Programme to carry humanitarian aid to Somalia, the IMO Council has recognized that much work still remains to be done if the ultimate goal of eliminating piracy is to be achieved.
The letter notes that the IMO Council chose the 2011 World Maritime Day theme in order to galvanize, throughout the year and beyond, further action aligned to a number of key objectives, including:
- increasing pressure at the political level to secure the immediate release of all hostages being held by pirates;
- providing care for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families;
- improving guidance to the industry and promoting full compliance by ships with all recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures;
- promoting greater levels of support from navies;
- promoting anti-piracy coordination and co-operation between and among States, regions and organizations;
- building capacity in affected States to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships.
The letter recognizes that the root causes of piracy in Somalia are to be found on land and that increased activity at the political level (foremost through the Security Council) is fundamental to enable the country to reach a land-based, political solution that will have a beneficial impact on crimes committed at sea, and facilitate and expedite the release of hostages.
"Any action you may decide to take in the context of this joint appeal will certainly contribute towards bringing the 2011 World Maritime Day theme of "Piracy: orchestrating the response" to the attention of other relevant entities of the UN System - in particular, those that may be in a position to contribute to the aforementioned goals and the related activities we will be undertaking throughout next year," the letter says.
"We are convinced that the authority of your Office and your personal support for the action outlined above will add considerable gravity and impetus to our efforts to eradicate piracy and armed robbery against ships," it adds.
29 July 2010
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