Add your voice in support of the victims of piracy

Douglas Stevenson
Douglas Stevenson

Piracy continues to threaten the lives of seafarers.

So much is being said about the threat that piracy poses to international security, trade and the global economy. Far too little is being done for the seafarers who are the immediate victims of piracy.

Douglas Stevenson from the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey writes:

“…piracy represents a crime against humanity. It is condemned by the international community of nations and any nation has jurisdiction to bring pirates to justice.”

What can you do in support of seafarers who have been traumatized by piracy?

In 2008, ICMA members were encouraged by the ICMA Annual General Meeting held in Hong Kong to voice our concern for the victims of piracy.  Be sure to look again at the resolution of the ICMA-AGM on this issue.

Now the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey have set up a petition online in support of ICMA’s resolution. To sign the petition electronically and voice your personal concern for seafarers threatened by piracy, click here.   

Piracy represents a crime against humanity. It is condemned by the international community of
nations, and any nation has jurisdiction to bring pirates to justice.International law defines piracy as any illegal act of violence or detention or any act of depredation committed for private ends by persons on a private ship against persons or property on another ship on the high seas.

In the early 1990s, the Seamen’s Church Institute became very involved when piracy was a big
problem in the Malacca Straits and South America. In May 1995, SCI’s Center for Seafarers’
Rights convened a high-level roundtable on piracy that assessed the problem worldwide,
exchanged views on how to deal with piracy, and made recommendations on actions to reduce the scourge of piracy.

The International Maritime Organization used the results of SCI’s Piracy Round Table in developing international guidelines for governments and ships to prevent and suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships. Recently, pirate attacks have increased in the waters off the coast of Somalia, largely because of failed local government attempts to curtail it. In 2008, at least 293 pirate attacks occurred worldwide; 49 vessels were hijacked, 46 other vessels were fired upon, 889 seafarers were taken hostage, 32 seafarers were injured, 11 seafarers were killed, and 21 seafarers missing and presumed dead. 111 of the 2008 pirate attacks occurred off the coast of Somalia.

High-profile cases in 2008, including pirates highjacking ships carrying relief supplies to East Africa, a supertanker laden with $100 million cargo of crude oil, and a ship carrying tanks and other weapons, prompted the United Nations to adopt four Security Council Resolutions to respond to Somali pirates. The resolutions did not, however, address the effects of piracy on seafarer victims.

SCI is concerned that the effects of pirate attacks on seafarer victims and their families is not well known and that few resources exist to care for piracy victims. Some shipping companies provide resources for their seafarers who have been victims of piracy, but effectiveness of the care is unmeasured and no guidelines exist for caring for seafarers post-attack. For example, some shipowners make counseling available to seafarers, but will seafarers voluntarily agree to counseling?

SCI is working with the International Christian Maritime Association in calling for more attention to be made to the effects of piracy on seafarers, specifically:

1. Undertake a comprehensive study on the effects of piracy on its victims
2. Develop international guidelines on caring for victims of piracy
3. Establish a resource and assistance center for piracy victims and shipowners