Category Archives: Piracy

MPHRP to continue Humanitarian Response

Maritime Piracy logoICMA welcomes the continuing commitment of all concerned in organising for the humanitarian response to the impact of piracy around the oceans of the world. From August 4th. in the UK – the boards of the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) are pleased to announce the moving of the activities of the MPHRP into ISWAN. A transfer agreement was signed by both parties on 3 August 2015. ISWAN will now be responsible for all the activities of the highly respected MPHRP.iswan

In the PRESS RELEASE this week  Roger Harris of ISWAN said ‘The move to ISWAN will enable the programme to develop under the auspices of a well-established international seafarers’ welfare organisation that is registered as a charity’.

ISWAN told us this week that ‘the programme will continue to support the seafarers and their families who are affected by piracy. While piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia have significantly decreased, attacks are on the increase in South East Asia and continuing in the Gulf of Guinea. The MPHRP programme will concentrate on these areas while still supporting seafarers who were held for years in Somalia. The programme will seek to develop constructive and positive relationships with existing and new industry partners.’

ISWAN has already appointed a new programme manager, Mr Tom Holmer, to lead the MPHRP in this new phase of its development. The programme in South Asia will continue while an immediate priority will be to secure funding to continue the programme in South East Asia and Eastern Europe.

Richard Kilgour: ICMA General Secretary said ‘the need for the humanitarian response to piracy is as vital as ever. We welcome this development in securing a base for MPHRP to continue to build upon this important work’.

A Hijacking

To be able to say that Kapringen – A Hijacking is good as a film, would be a fitting tribute to the seafarers and the shipping company whom it depicts.  In fact, it is a very good film indeed.

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) presented a pre-screening of Kapringen – A Hijacking in London.  The special screening to an invited audience was sponsored by the ICC International Maritime Bureau, the International Chamber of Shipping / ISF, The Nautical Institute, Videotel and INCE & CO.

The film, inspired by a real incident of piracy, follows both the crew and the company through the ordeal from capture to release.  It makes for 100 minutes of harrowing viewing.  In the panel discussion that followed, IMO Secretary General Mr Koji Sekimizu said that while, after seeing such a film, one normally leaves the theatre relieved to return to reality, this film is too close to home:  it is our reality.

The film’s focus is the effect of piracy on its characters.  Pilou Asbæk  delivers a riveting performance as the ship’s cook who is left damaged by the events.  Equally captivating is Søren Malling as the company negotiator.  Clearly, piracy leaves all those affected devastated.  Gary Skjoldmose Porter essentially plays himself: he was the company’s security adviser during the actual events that inspired the film.  He brings such credibility to the role that one is drawn into the claustrophobic atmosphere of the negotiating room.  Speaking after the screening he said that the filming of those scenes was done on location where the negotiations were conducted.  The reenactment  of the negotiations brought back difficult memories for him.   The location and genial direction of Tobias Lindholm clearly paid off.  The film has deservedly won awards at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, in addition to several accolades in its native Denmark.

There are no heroes in this film. Seafarers and company bosses are ordinary people who seek only to get on with the business of everyday life.   They are catapulted into extraordinary events.  That they survive is in itself heroic.

It is the seafarers behind this film that should be brought to mind; those 79 still held captive, and those who, upon release, now find it tough to deal with life.  It is to assist these seafarers that the MPHRP exists.  The International Christian Maritime Association is a member of this cross-industry alliance.  We bring to piracy response a network of welfare responders and religious support for seafarers and their families.  ICMA members are eager to do more.  Our members are willing to work with the industry to provide fellowship and humanitarian assistance to affected seafarers and families.

Kapringen – A Hijacking is a thought provoking film.  It deserves an audience for its own sake.  For us who care for seafarers, even more so.

CLICK HERE to see the trailer.  

Chaplains: common sense, not therapy

Chaplains’ responses to seafarers affected by piracy requires common sense, not therapy.  Pastors should be professional in fulfilling their limited but crucial role, and establish themselves as a vital resource.  

The ICMA Regional Conference in Odessa was addressed by the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme.  Toon van de Sande delivered a paper to raise awareness of the Programme’s work and its ideals for ICMA’s continued partnership.

Toon van de Sande (pictured with Alexander (left), the MPHRP representative in the Ukraine) was previously a chaplain of the ICMA member Stichting Pastoraat Werkers Overzee, emphasised the need for training in appropriate responses to seafarers affected by piracy.  The Programme valued highly ICMA’s participation in the industry-wide alliance to care for seafarers and maritime families affected by piracy.  ICMA was a founding partner of the MPHRP. The need for a continuum of care, a concept devised by psychologist Dr. Marion Gibson, is central to understanding responsiveness to the humanitarian needs of seafarers in crisis. The role of chaplains can best be described as humanitarian first aid.  Welfare response is common sense, not therapy. Chaplains are chaplains, not lawyers, inspectors, mental health professionals, or anything but chaplains.  Our work has limitations, but has immense value. Chaplains should limit themselves to their role, and be the best they can be in delivering that role.  Evidence suggests that the role of chaplains may reduce the eventuality of complications after traumatic events. Van de Sande explained his experience of working with the industry as chaplain to the Dutch dredging industry,  responding to crises in dredging companies.  The conference deduced that the chaplains should aspire to be included in first- and emergency responder teams. The problem is that the industry is not sufficiently aware of what chaplains can contribute.  First emergency and welfare response should be demonstrated and be delivered with professionalism.  The ideal is that pastors will be recognised for their crucial role and professionalism in delivering support. A standard of professional conduct for pastors was suggested to the MPHRP by a workshop of chaplains held in Durban in 2012.

ICMA continues to support all initiatives to counter piracy and to support seafarers and their families who are affected by piracy.

Award dedicated to the determination of piracy survivors

The Iceberg 1 crew “represent the spirit of seafarers’ determination to continue their maritime careers after this experience (of piracy)” MPHRP stated at its acceptance of the Sailor Today annual award for seafarers welfare in India. 

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme has been recognised for excellence in caring for seafarers after piracy.  The maritime community of India awarded MPHRP the Sailor Today Award 2013.  The Indian crew members of the Iceberg 1 joined MPHRP staff, Roy Paul and Chirag Bahri, on stage to accept the award to applause from the 500 member audience.

Roy Paul said, “We, tonight, with the support of Sailor Today, celebrate this crew and all seafarers who have survived piracy, and their families”

The parents of Chief Officer Tiwara were also present.  Tiwara did not return with the released crew.  He is still missing. The audience remembered those still held by pirates, and those seafarers who died in captivity.

MPHRP also assisted in the welcome home of seafarers to India, Bangladesh , Pakistan and Sri Lanka after the Royal Grace and Syrimi were released.

Roy Paul said: “This award is dedicated to all those seafarers who have been traumatised at anytime in their life by incidents of piracy.  We thank them, our industry partners, our funders, ITF Seafarers Trust, TK Foundation, Seafarers UK and IGP+I, and especially Sailor Today for this recogocnition”.

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) also lauded the Indian Shipping Ministry for its role in the release of the Iceberg 1 and the Royal Grace,  saying that no other government had done as much for its citizens held by pirates.  The owner of one of the the vessels had abandoned the ship and its crew,  adding to the trauma suffered by the seafarers and their families.  Many of the crew had not been paid any salaries during the captivity period.

MPHRP, with assistance of its partners, has provided for medical assistance to the crew on their return.  ICMA is a member of the industry alliance that is MPHRP.  We work with our industry partners to help seafarers and maritime families affected by piracy.

See more on MPHRP

Another ship released, 26 crew freed

The Shipping Tribune reports that Somali pirates last week released the Smyrni. The Smyrni, believed to be fully laden with crude oil, has a 26-member crew.  It is now believed to be sailing up the Arabian Sea, destination unknown.  But an official at the Omani port of Salalah told Platts that the “pirate-released” Smyrni is expected to arrive at the port on March 13.

The oil tanker belongs to Greece’s Dynacom Tankers Management.  The 2011-built Smyrni was taken by Somalian pirates on March 11 last year.

International Christian Maritime Association members have no representation in Omani port of Salalah.  The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme will most likely work closely with the industry, on ICMA’s behalf, to ensure an appropriate reception for the crew.  ICMA believes that seafarers should be professionally supported after piracy.  The piracy response should include spiritual care and mental health assistance.

Source: The Shipping Tribune

Responding to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Reverend Ed Gbe

Chaplains from the ICMA West Africa Region have expressed concern about the postponement of the Regional Conference as piracy in the region escalates.  

Pirates have boarded another ship off the coast of Nigeria’s oil region, the latest in a string of attacks in the area.  It was reported that an unknown number of foreigners were kidnapped in the attack on the Armadah Tuah vessel.  If confirmed, this attack would be the third offshore kidnapping in the area in 10 days, following the attacks on Esther C on February 7th, and on Walvis 7 on February 10th.  Gulf of Guinea pirate attacks have been notoriously violent.  But the recent spate of hostage-taking is a new development in the tactics of these pirates.    In a separate attack, robbers resorted to the usual modus operandi for this part of the world, boarding a ship anchored at the Lagos port and stealing the stores kept on the ship.

Piracy off the Nigerian coast and elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea is on the rise. There have been at least five attacks in the waters off Africa’s most populous nation this month, reported The Shipping Tribune

ICMA chaplains working in the region are keen to learn how best to respond to the needs of seafarers affected by pirate attacks such as these.  The Regional Coordinator Reverend Ed Gbe, assisted by Sunday Agbi,  wrote to the Secretariat urging ICMA to help them “…actualize ICMA objectives in the region for effective seafarers welfare care.” To this end, they said “we will need a strategic plan that must be worked through.”  Both Ed and Sunny believe that the delivery of welfare to seafarers lacks an overarching organisational structure and exposure to authorities and industry alike.

Ed and Sunny’s enthusiasm for an ICMA conference in Nigeria indicates the value of these networking and training events for local chaplains. An ICMA regional conference was planned for 2013, but had to be postponed due to the ITF Seafarers’ Trust’s strategic review.  It is hoped that a regional conference would be possible in 2014.  Meanwhile, ICMA intends to help the region to achieve its goals as best it can by other means.

You can help foster resilience to piracy

We can help seafarers be more resilient to pirate attacks.  This is the view of Dr.  Michael Stuart Garfinkle of SCI who has published the first clinical study of piracy’s effect on seafarers.

Better coordination to enhance resilience, identifying resources available to seafarers and improved  access to those resources would go a long way to reduce seafarers’ suffering  from the long-term effects of trauma, he said.  In an article published by the Seamen’ s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, Garfinkle writes:

Maritime piracy represents the single greatest risk to the seafaring community—not because of its prevalence, but because of the potential magnitude of traumatic experience. Resilience describes how we get through the stressors of everyday life, how we survive tragedy and how we recover from traumatic experience. If we think of traumatic experiences as those that interrupt our ability to think, disturb our feelings and make us feel overwhelmed, resilience is the counterforce that minimizes the impact of trauma. Extensive trauma, both in terms of length and intensity, especially tests resilience. Where there are direct threats to life, outcomes tend to be worse.


As a process, resilience is possible at the individual and community level. An individual can be supported in coping, in using available help from loved ones and professionals and in returning to purpose in life.  Many seafarers come from supportive families and communities, and the literature on resilience and surviving traumatic experience suggests that acceptance by peers improves outcomes.

You can help foster resilience by accepting a person’s temporary weakness due to difficult experience.

  • Accept that their suffering is normal.
  • See expressions of pain as opportunities to render help.

CLICK HERE to read the article at the SCI site


Professionalism in delivering care

The International Christian Maritime Association commends its members’ chaplains on responding swiftly and with professionalism to the calls of the industry and our partners to help seafarers.

The ICMA Secretariat has, in the past few days received several requests from our partners and in one case from a shipping company, to deliver welfare services to seafarers in crises.   The calls for help included support for the next of kin of a seafarer who had been in a road accident.  In another incident the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme asked us to support seafarers after a piracy attack.  In yet another, ISAN asked us for help. In each of these cases the chaplains responded swiftly and professionally.

When called upon by partners and industry to help seafarers, even in isolated cases, the quality of just one chaplain’s response speaks for the whole Association and for faith-based care in general.    It is incidents like these that establish all ICMA members as reliable resources and valued partners.

Well done and thank you all!   Keep it up.

Preventing piracy is better than dealing with its effects

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme has invited ICMA to attend its seminar on piracy planned for 5th February 2013 in Seoul.  The seminar is presented in collaboration with NATO Shipping Centre.

Peter Swift, Chair of the MPHRP

The workshop is themed “Prevention is better than Cure”. In a statement on the workshop, the MPHRP Steering Group Chair, Peter Swift, said:

The aim of workshop is to focus upon the piracy threat and promote the use of BMP among shipping companies, masters and crews transiting piracy infested areas, as well as focusing on the humanitarian element (MPHRP) pre-, during and post-release.

A panel of commercial shipping and military experts with first hand piracy experience will be in attendance.  The scenario follows a merchant ship on its voyage from Singapore, through the High Risk Area and onwards.  Discussions regarding the proper reporting procedures, BMP compliance, Humanitarian response, Seafarers care, what to expect from naval forces etc, are generated by questions from the moderator to the panellists.

CLICK HERE for the full text of the announcement

While international military interventions in the Indian Ocean has seen the decline of Somalia-based piracy in 2012, the Gulf of Guinea has seen a sharp rise in incidents of piracy.  The Nigerian navy has made valiant attempts at responding to attacks by pirates, but is stretched, its 2000 mile coastline too extensive to police adequately.

150 seafarers (minus 22!) will spend Christmas with pirates… as Iceberg 1 crew is freed

The surviving Iceberg crew has been freed by Somali troops!  The BBC announced the release on Sunday 23rd December.

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) has welcomed the news of the release of the 22 crew members on the Iceberg 1 after 1000 days in captivity in Somalia.
Peter Swift, Chairman of Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) said:

“We are greatly relieved to hear that they are safe after their terrible ordeal” , “and to hear that that they will soon be returning to their homes.  It has also been wonderful to hear the expressions of joy and happiness from their families as the news of their release reached them. We are of course grateful to all those who have played a part in their rescue and are making the arrangements for their medical and other check-ups and their repatriation. Now we hope that both public and private organisations will work to ensure that the released hostages, as well as their families, receive all the necessary support and assistance they will require both immediately and longer term as they recover from the trauma and deprivation that they have suffered since being kidnapped on 29 March 2010.”

“While we are overjoyed at the release of these 22 seafarers we must not forget that 2 of their colleagues died during their captivity on Iceberg 1 and our thoughts are equally with the families of those who have not returned. Similarly our thoughts and prayers are with the more than 140 seafarers and fishermen still held hostage on other ships and ashore  in Somalia and call on all parties to do all within their power to hasten their release and safe return.”

ICMA thanks God for prayers answered.

Earlier this website reported:

The slump in Somali piracy is “wholly reversible”, should counter-piracy forces be withdrawn from the Horn of Africa. But even without new incidents of piracy, an estimated 150 seafarers will spend Christmas as hostages.

Crew on the MV Iceberg 1. Source: The Chain Locker Blog

The Mission to Seafarers’ newspaper, The Sea, quoted Rear Admiral Duncan Potts as saying that piracy will return to the region if the shipping community should relax its measures of self-protection to merchant ships that transit the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.  These sentiments were echoed by the director of the International Maritime Bureau, Pottengal Mukundan.  He stressed

“there was no room for complacency. The pirates are still out there…  It is vital that the navies continue their excellent work in disrupting the pirate gangs.”

At the beginning of November an estimated nine vessels were under control of pirates, putting the lives of 127 seafarers at their mercy, while another 27 seafarers are believed to be held hostage ashore, in spite of a marked drop in pirate activity in 2012 compared to statistics taken in 2011.  These seafarers are bound to remain captive as Christmas approaches.

While East African shores remain dangerous, even if better protected, the Gulf of Guinea (West Africa) pirates do not normally take hostages but are more violent.  Piracy continues In Indonesia, the Malacca Straits, the South China Sea and Malaysia.

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) has launched pre-departure training for seafarers with the support of the International Group of P&I Clubs, the ITF Seafarers Trust and The TK Foundation.  The training is intended to make seafarers more resilient and better able to deal with the humanitarian concerns arising from piracy.   The MPHRP has also recruited ICMA members’ collaboration on a guide for welfare responders who encounter seafarers and seafarers’ families after pirate attacks have occurred. The guide is nearing completion: publication is expected in the first quarter of 2013.  Meanwhile, all ICMA’s regional conferences have devoted much attention to piracy and on how chaplains can help seafarers after their ordeal with pirates.

However, none of these initiatives are of any significance yet to those seafarers held captive this Christmas.  ICMA urges prayer for these seafarers and for their families.  They will spend this holy period alone, due to no choice of their own.  May God make them aware of his presence.