IMO Briefing: 60/2011
23 November 2011
Captain Seog Hae-gyun of the Republic of Korea, Master of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry, has been presented with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea 2011, for his decisive, brave and courageous actions to protect his ship and crew during a vicious pirate attack in the Indian Ocean, which left him with serious and long-lasting injuries.
Captain Seog, accompanied by his wife, was handed the award by IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, during a ceremony held on 21 November 2011 at IMO Headquarters in London.
When the Samho Jewelry was boarded by pirates, in January 2011, the crew took cover in the designated citadel but the pirates broke in, detaining them on the bridge. Over two days, Captain Seog steered the ship on a zig-zag course, so that the pirates would not realize that the vessel was actually heading away from, instead of towards, Somali waters. He contaminated the fuel so the engines would not work normally, pretended the steering gear was malfunctioning and slowed the ship’s speed from 14 knots to six, to keep her out of Somali waters for as long as possible, thus maximizing the potential for units of the Republic of Korea Navy to attempt a rescue. However, the pirates became suspicious that some of Captain Seog’s actions were intended to outwit them and they brutally assaulted him, causing serious fractures to his legs and shoulders.
While all this was happening, the pirates ordered him to communicate information about the incident to his shipping company in English, via satellite. Captain Seog surreptitiously inserted information in Korean about the true situation – information that proved vital for the Navy of his country to plan, and execute, a rescue operation.
On 21 January, as the sun came up, the Republic of Korea Navy destroyer Choi Young launched a rescue operation, which they named “Dawn of the Gulf of Aden”. By 06.30 on that day, the attack team had gained full control of the bridge. During this time, Captain Seog, despite his injuries, managed to send out an urgent message via VHF, warning the boarding party that there were three pirates at the steering wheel.
The already-injured Captain Seog survived being shot four times, including twice in the abdomen, by pirates firing in revenge. Having received emergency treatment from the Special Assault Commando, he was transported by means of an inflatable craft and a helicopter to the Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Oman.
Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea naval forces involved in the assault continued operations on the ship, and all 21 crew members eventually were freed. In all, eight pirates were killed and five captured.
From the Omani hospital, Captain Seog was transferred to a hospital in the Republic of Korea, where he underwent major surgery. It was nearly a month before he recovered full consciousness.
Mr. Mitropoulos said that the fact that Captain Seog’s act of bravery has been judged as deserving the top honour had particular resonance this year, “when piracy has been at the epicentre of our activities, spurring and motivating us to orchestrate a credible response to its menace”.
“Captain Seog Hae-gyun was confronted not by the elements that nature can throw at men and ships, but an even more insidious danger: that of pirates threatening him, his crew and his ship. In response, he acted with quick thinking, courageously, decisively and with extreme bravery to protect all those whose lives depended on him and his decisions. His selfless reaction left him with severe injuries and nearly cost him his life,” Mr. Mitropoulos said.
The Award takes the form of a silver medal depicting, on one side, a search and rescue operation with a sinking ship in the background and a helicopter rescuing survivors from the sea in the foreground, with the IMO logo on the reverse side.
Special recognition to MRCCs Falmouth and Stavanger
During the ceremony, special Certificates of Commendation were awarded to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) Falmouth (United Kingdom) and Stavanger (Norway), for their contribution, on several occasions, to search and rescue operations unfolding in distant areas, far away from their respective countries’ search and rescue regions, over many years.
Certificates to highly commended nominees
In addition to the Award itself, certificates were also presented during the ceremony to the following “highly commended” nominees or their representatives:
Mr. Wang Hao, rescue swimmer of the B-7313 SAR helicopter aircrew, Bei Hai Search and Rescue Flying Service, Ministry of Transport, China, nominated by China, for keeping an injured fisherman alive by removing a cable that had been wrapped around the injured man’s neck during a hoisting operation in heavy seas, in January 2011.
Captain Cao Deguang, Master of the rescue vessel Bei Hai Jiu 111, Bei Hai Rescue Bureau, Ministry of Transport, China, nominated by China, for rescuing, in severe weather, in December 2010, all six crew members of the bauxite carrier, Li Zhou 8, which had had its hatch covers ripped off by high winds and was taking on water.
Mr. Guo Wenbiao, who has been responsible for saving many lives since setting up the first self-financing, volunteer life-saving station (called “Folk Relieving Station of the Sea Peace”) in Zhejiang Province, China, in 2008. He was nominated by China for attempting to rescue seven crew members of a fishing vessel, diving seven times and locating six bodies in the cabin, in May 2010, after professional divers had given up the search.
The crew of the container ship Charlotte Maersk, nominated by Denmark, for fighting and extinguishing an aggressive, fast-evolving fire aboard their ship, in July 2010. The fire erupted shortly after the ship left Port Klang, Malaysia. Huge flames leapt 50 metres in height and violent explosions ripped through containers, many of which were carrying dangerous goods. The Master and 21 crew members successfully fought the fire without professional help, putting their own lives at stake to stop the fire from spreading and thereby save their ship and cargo.
Third Petty Officer Jesús Damián Orta Sáenz and Corporal Edgar José Iturriaga Cariño, rescue swimmers of the Mexican Navy, based in Yukalpetén, Yucatán. They were nominated by Mexico, for rescuing seven persons from the grounded fishing vessel, Hulkin V, in June 2010. Their ocean patrol vessel could not, owing to its draught, approach the stranded ship, from which it remained at a distance of 600 metres, forcing the two rescuers to undertake a long and exhausting swim to and from the Hulkin V – an exercise, which they had to repeat several times in heavy seas, to bring back all the survivors.
The Master and crew of the general cargo ship Momentum Scan, nominated by the Netherlands, for their tireless and persistent efforts in rescuing 226 migrants, including women and children, from a 20-metre long wooden boat that was taking on water and sinking, in harsh weather and heavy seas, in the Adriatic Sea, in January 2011 – this, despite their having no previous search and rescue experience.
The crew of the Coast Guard rescue helicopter 6022, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, with special individual recognition to rescue swimmer AST2 Sara Faulkner, (nominated by the United States of America) for rescuing, at night, all three people from the yacht Arktur. The yacht had lost its engine and sail power off the Bahamas, in December 2010. Cohesive teamwork ensured the rescue was successful, despite large swells, which hampered the hoisting of survivors aboard the helicopter.
Chief Engineer Anthony Gervasio and Qualified Member of the Engineering Department (QMED) Louis Longlois, crew members of the offshore supply vessel Damon B. Bankston, nominated by the United States of America, for placing their own lives at risk while rescuing survivors from the Deepwater Horizon Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit, in the Gulf of Mexico, following a devastating explosion on the rig in April 2010. The Damon B. Bankston crew, who had been standing-by for a routine transfer, deployed the vessel’s fast rescue craft after hearing the explosion and Mr. Gervasio and Mr. Longlois directly saved 23 lives, locating people in the water amidst flames and debris raining down. They went on to assist in the rescue of another 92 people from the rig’s lifeboats.
Letters of Commendation
Furthermore, letters of commendation were sent to the following nominees:
Six Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Marine Enforcement Officers serving aboard the Australian Customs and Border Protection Vessel Triton, and 12 members of the Australian Defence Force serving on the patrol boat HMAS Pirie, nominated by Australia, for rescuing 41 survivors from a small wooden vessel which had smashed against rocks off Christmas Island, in December 2010, with an estimated 70 to 100 persons on board. The rescuers spent some ten hours picking up survivors and recovering bodies.
The crew of the helicopter UH-12 “N-7051”, call sign Albatroz 51, of the Brazilian Navy 5th Squad of Helicopters for General Use, nominated by Brazil, for rescuing all three survivors from a yacht that had gone adrift off the coast of Brazil, in February 2011. The three survivors had to be hoisted from the heavy seas and required the helicopter’s diver to go into the water himself, as the height of the yacht’s mast meant that rescue directly from the yacht’s deck was impossible.
The crew of the rescue tugboat Nan Hai Jiu 197, Nan Hai Rescue Bureau, Ministry of Transport, China, nominated by China, for saving four out of five persons aboard a small cargo ship that had sunk in severe weather, in January 2011. The crew decided to launch the tugboat’s small lifeboat, despite the heavy waves, as it would be faster than the tugboat itself. They searched for and rescued four survivors, who had been adrift in lifejackets in the cold sea.
The crew of the fishing boat Zhe Ping Yu 0158, nominated by China, for the rescue of three crew members from the stricken fishing vessel Cang Long Yu 022 during super-typhoon Fanapi, in September 2010. In severe weather they deftly manoeuvred their boat alongside the damaged vessel, before transferring the crew and then towing it to safety.
Italian Coast Guard 7th Naval Squadron, Lampedusa, Sicily, nominated by Italy for working day and night, seven days a week, to save the lives of thousands of people from boats and rafts adrift or sinking in the waters surrounding the island of Lampedusa. Most of those rescued were refugees or migrants and included pregnant women and others needing medical attention.
Captain Zaw Aung and the crew of the chemical tanker MTM Princess, nominated by Myanmar, for rescuing all four persons from the yacht Octagon, which had lost its steering and was taking on water. The rescue took place in darkness, bad weather and heavy seas, in the Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles north west of Spain, in June 2010.
Captain Jeffrey J. Federigan of the cargo ship Delmas Nacala, nominated by the Philippines, for out-manoeuvring, over a period of three hours, pirates in two skiffs, 600 miles off the coast of Seychelles, in March 2010. The pirates repeatedly attempted to reach the ship, firing at it with rocket-propelled grenades, but the Master performed zig-zag manoeuvres and successfully evaded boarding.
The crew of the patrol ship Taepyeongyang No.9, from the Coast Guard of the Republic of Korea, nominated by the Republic of Korea, for rescuing all three crew members and 12 passengers from a cargo-passenger ship, in high winds, heavy seas and snow, in December 2010. The ship had already started sinking when it made the distress call but capsized within minutes of the patrol vessel arriving. Seven people were thrown into the freezing water from which they were rescued, while the other eight people were recovered from the upturned ship.
The crew of the Coast Guard MH-60J helicopter CG 6007, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, nominated by the United States of America, for rescuing, at night, in blowing snow and sub-zero temperatures, all five crew members from a stranded fishing vessel, in Alaska, in February 2011. The survivors were hoisted to safety one by one, as the helicopter worked in dangerous conditions, avoiding swinging masts, rigging and a nearby cliff.
Bei Hai SAR Flying Service, China Rescue and Salvage Bureau, Ministry of Transport, China, nominated by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), for hoisting to safety, under difficult conditions, all 25 persons clinging on to a damaged drilling platform, which was tilting at a 45 degree angle, in heavy seas and high winds, in September 2010.
Mr. Zhou Guoxiong, boatswain of the rescue vessel Dong Hai Jiu 113, Donghai Rescue Bureau, Ministry of Transport, China, nominated by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), for his personal involvement in saving six of the 17 people who had been lost overboard when their cargo ship sank, in December 2010, in darkness and rough seas. At one point Mr. Zhou Guoxiong jumped into the cold water to help a survivor who was too weak to grab the rescue rope himself.
IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea
The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was established by IMO to provide international recognition to those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment – and, by so doing, help to raise the profile of shipping and enhance its image.
A total of 38 nominations from 14 Member States and one non-governmental organization in consultative status with IMO were received and considered by an Assessment Panel consisting of experts nominated by various international non-governmental organizations. A Panel of Judges then met, under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the IMO Council, with the participation of the Chairmen of IMO’s Maritime Safety, Marine Environment Protection, Legal, Technical Co operation, and Facilitation Committees.
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.
IMO Briefing 59/2011
21 November 2011
Assembly, 27th session: 21-30 November 2011
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has focused heavily on actions to stem climate change and to address piracy off the coast of Somalia, in what has been a busy and productive biennium for the Organization on the regulatory front, Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos told delegates at the opening (on Monday, 21 November) of the 27th session of the Organization’s highest governing body, the Assembly. The meeting is being attended by more than 1,000 delegates from IMO Member States as well as from international governmental and non-governmental organizations.
In his opening address,
Mr. Mitropoulos said that the escalation of piracy off the coast of Somalia had been a matter of grave concern, prompting IMO to make combating it a central theme of its work in 2011. A multi-faceted action plan, devised in collaboration with the shipping industry and seafarer representative organizations, is being meticulously implemented, he said, drawing heavily on the Organization’s considerable experience of successfully tackling piracy elsewhere in the world – most notably in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and in the South China Sea.
Mr. Mitropoulos said that, while the percentage of attempted attacks that prove successful for the pirates has dropped, from more than 40 per cent historically, to less than 20 per cent this year, many seafarers were going about their daily business in ships sheathed in razor wire in a state of constant wariness as they ran the gauntlet of pirate gangs. To underline the seriousness of the situation, he reminded the Assembly that – at the close of business last week – there were 15 ships held in Somalia, with 311 seafarers captured.
“While recognizing, with due appreciation, the contribution of Governments – acting individually or collectively, through political and defence alliances and at a considerate cost – to stem the Somali piracy scourge, we should also recognize how crucial it is that the political will among those Governments that have the potential to make a difference is translated into reality in a manner that matches their political ambition and which the severity of the issue as a whole demands,” he added.
Reflecting on IMO’s efforts to establish a regulatory regime to control and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from ships, Mr. Mitropoulos said this had been a complex and difficult task from both a conceptual and a technical perspective.
“The fact, however, that representatives of a large number of Governments were able to reach decisions on complicated issues of great importance to the environment, not only bears testimony to the responsible manner with which IMO addresses its respective mandate, but also to the great results that can be achieved when States, with the same concerns and determination to produce meaningful solutions to global issues, work together. The co-operation of the shipping industry and environmental groups also proved of great value in this process – in particular, in the adoption, in July of this year, of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI establishing the first-ever mandatory global greenhouse gas reduction regime for an international industry sector,” he said.
This achievement placed IMO in a strong position at the next round of UN consultations on climate change – which opens next week in Durban – such that it will enable the international community to agree that the Organization is, in the words of UN Secretary-General Ban, “best positioned to play a leadership role in addressing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping”, he added.
Looking ahead, Mr. Mitropoulos noted that the IMO Council has chosen “IMO: One hundred years after the Titanic” as the World Maritime Day theme for 2012. “We will use it as an opportunity to put the spotlight once again on IMO’s roots and raison d’être, which is none other than safety at sea,” he said.
“During next year, IMO will also continue, in co-operation with affected countries and on a regional basis, to work on the unacceptably high number of lives lost every year among persons fleeing famine or political unrest, who use sub-standard ships to carry them away in search of a better life. The plight of these persons constitutes, together with the unacceptable phenomenon of piracy, a stigma for the 21st century and we should spare no effort to bring both to an end soon,” Mr. Mitropoulos said.
Mr. Mitropoulos said the Organization remained strong and determined, in a world still beset with problems, including climate change and global warming; the faltering global economy; famine and poverty; children dying of malnutrition and poor health care; social and political unrest; armed conflicts; declining ecosystems; and the threat of pandemics – most of them inter-connected and all conspiring to make the need for concerted action on all fronts stronger than perhaps ever before.
“What really should please us immensely is that, in a world such as this, our Organization remains a beacon of stability, displaying virtues of calmness, self-confidence and, above all, a strong determination to provide convincing answers to serious questions and move on regardless of the severity of the issues on our agenda. Our foundations are strong and solid and we feel confident that we will be able to withstand the impact of any storm that may come our way in the period ahead, although we cannot possibly predict all of the challenges that will face the Organization between now and the next time the Assembly meets,” he said.
Mr. Mike Penning, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, United Kingdom, welcomed delegates to the Assembly on behalf of the host Government.
The outgoing President of the Assembly, His Excellency Mr. Georg Boomgaarden, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Germany to IMO, and the incoming President, His Excellency Mr. Eduardo Medina-Mora, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Mexico to IMO, also addressed the Assembly.
The 27th session of the IMO Assembly runs until 30 November 2011 at IMO Headquarters.
Election of Officers
His Excellency Mr. Eduardo Medina-Mora, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Mexico to IMO.
1st Vice-President: His Excellency Dr. Zola Skweyiya, South African High Commissioner in London; and
2nd Vice-President: His Excellency Mr. Volodymyr Khandogiy, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the United Kingdom and Permanent Representative of Ukraine to IMO.
The Assembly is IMO’s highest governing body. All 170 Member States and three Associate Members are entitled to attend, as are the intergovernmental organizations with which agreements of co-operation have been concluded, and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO. The Assembly normally meets once every two years in regular session. It is responsible for approving the work programme, voting the budget and determining the financial arrangements of the Organization. It also elects the Council.
The full text of the IMO Secretary-General’s speech is available on the IMO website.
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
18 November 2011
International officers’ union Nautilus is to tackle the UK government over its stated policy to cut red tape on UK-flag ships.
As TradeWinds reported last month, in the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA)’s midterm business plan, chief executive Alan Massey said the aim of UK policy is to “reduce the regulatory burden on the shipping industry, consistent with delivering an appropriate and proportionate level of safety.”
The move is part of a national programme of deregulation by the UK’s coalition government, known as the Red Tape Challenge.
But Nautilus says the programme of reform is a potential threat to the welfare of seafarers on UK-flag ships.
In a statement, the union said, “In the interests of safety of life at sea, it is essential that we respect the international conventions and codes and European directives and regulations; and respect the decisions of UK inquiries that have been incorporated into UK law.”
Among the laws that Nautilus feels are under threat is the Merchant Shipping Act requirement for the provision of emergency equipment lockers on ro-ro passenger ships introduced following the 1987 Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster.
It also wants to see the 1837 Piracy Act maintained to ensure that the maximum sentence is preserved for acts of piracy. Likewise, it wants to keep the Merchant Shipping Act section 95, which allows seafarers the right to take industrial action at anchorages and safe berth.
Massey says his deregulation programme would include a review of ship inspection. This is likely to mean less statutory inspection and certification work will be conducted by the UK’s in-house surveyors and more will be shared with leading classification societies.
Hellenic Shipping News
18 November 2011
Different seafarer groups continue to call on the Aquino government to give priority to the ratification of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) of 2006 saying that it will help guarantee the safety of more than 250,000 Filipino seafarers worldwide. Thirty countries should first ratify the convention before it can take effect.
Last September, members of various maritime organizations were joined by their families in celebrating the 16th International Seafarers’ Week and the World Maritime Day. They said the Aquino government should sign the convention and address the issue of worsening maritime accidents including hijacking incidents that have claimed the lives of many Filipino seafarers.
With the recent ratification by Antigua and Barbuda last August 11, 2011 of the MLC 2006, 18 ILO member states have already ratified the convention, which sets out minimum standards and fair working conditions for seafarers worldwide. If the needed 12 more ratifications will be obtained before the end of 2011, the MLC 2006 will enter into force in 2012.
The 18 countries that have already ratified the convention are Liberia, Marshall Islands, Bahamas, Panama, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, Croatia, Bulgaria, Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Switzerland, Gabon, Benin, Singapore, Denmark, Latvia, Antigua and Barbuda.
The MLC contains a comprehensive set of global standards, based on those that are already found in 68 maritime labor instruments. It seeks to modernize global standards and enforce a set of minimum requirements to address conditions of employment, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, and welfare and social security protection.
The proponents of the convention also want to promote compliance by operators and owners of ships by giving governments sufficient flexibility to implement its requirements in a manner best adapted to their individual laws and practices; and strengthen enforcement mechanisms at all levels, including provisions for complaint procedures available to seafarers, shipowners’ supervision of conditions on their ships, the flag states’ jurisdiction and control over their ships, and Port State inspections of foreign ships.
An estimated 90 per cent of world trade is carried on ships and seafarers are, in this sense, essential to international trade and the international economic and trade system. The MLC consolidates and updates more than 68 international labour standards related to the maritime sector adopted over the last 80 years.
The ILO said it has been designed to become a global instrument known as the “fourth pillar” of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the ILO.
The decision by the ILO to move forward to create this major new maritime labour convention was the result of a joint resolution in 2001 by the international seafarers’ and ship owners’ organizations, also supported by governments. They pointed out that the shipping industry is “the world’s first genuinely global industry,” which “requires an international regulatory response of an appropriate kind – global standards applicable to the entire industry”.
Health problems of seafarers
Besides problems directly related to employment, the MLC also seeks to addresses issues concerning the health and safety of seafarers.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health said that no less than 50 per cent of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) carrying the dreaded HIV virus are seafarers.
The DOH said the new figures erases the common notion that the HIV virus is being transmitted by OFWs who are working as entertainers or sex workers abroad. Indulging in unprotected sex is often the cause of the HIV transmission among seafarers. HIV and AIDS is now one of the top 10 health issues threatening Filipino seafarers, along with Hepatitis B and heart disease.
According to Eliseo Lucero-Prisno of the Royal Tropical Institute, seafaring is the most risky profession in the world, second to commercial fishing.
“Half-a-million Filipino seafarers constantly face an uncertain health scenario, with their lives and limbs always at a risk,” he said.
Lucero-Prisno said the health problems faced by seafarers are aggravated by several factors that undermine their health during the various phases of their work cycles. He said that prior to their work onboard, seamen are not sufficiently prepared to deal with health-threatening realities.
“Their maritime education does not emphasize health issues,” he said. He explained that lack of knowledge/awareness generally makes Filipinos unprepared to meet psychological stresses (loneliness and fatigue) and other health problems such as STDs and HIV and infectious diseases (SARS, influenza, malaria).
“As diseases, accidents and mortality at sea rise in the international shipping sector, Filipino seafarers, the Philippine government and other maritime players such as manning agencies, ships’ owners and unions, remain in quandary about meaningful solutions to health hazards and problems. Of course, the undermining of the health situation of seafarers impacts on international and national economies, not to mention the welfare and survival of households,” he said.
The health professional said that despite various international conventions promulgated by the ILO, the World Health Organization, and the International Maritime Organization, the Philippine government’s response may be considered weak vis-à-vis the health status of seafarers, making them a vulnerable work group.
“The virtual dearth of information, the absence of significant health research, and the weakness of policy combine to raise the challenge of a long-term welfare response for seafarers, specially when ailments and deaths set in. Other factors that confirm this challenge are the lack of relevant support systems for seafarers’ families, no strong health insurance system, and lack in resources /capacity in negotiating with foreign partners (insurance companies and ship owners),” he said.
In the end, however, the most immediate problems seafarers face are labor rights abuses and attacks of pirates and lawless elements.
Regarding exploitative labor practices Dennis Gorecho of the Apostolate of the Sea (AOS) said these usually happen aboard different ships, especially the flag-of- convenience (FoC) vessels. He said Filipino seafarers are among the many seafarers from various nationalities who are victimized by unfair labor practices or seafaring accidents.
The number of Filipino sailors working in the world’s merchant fleet is expected to hit 400,000 before the end of 2011. This is the target deployment number set by the Philippine Overseas Administration Office (POEA). In 2010, the agency’s deployment data for the sea-based sector was 347,000. This had a 5.06 per cent growth over 2009 figures, with an increase for land-based of 3.2 per cent. These figures show a combined total of 1,470,826 deployment for that same year (2010), as compared to 1,422,586 in 2009, and 1,236,013 in 2008. Seafarer remittance for January to July 2011 has already reached the $11.4 billion or a 6.3 percent increase over the same January to July 2010 figure of $10.679 billion.
As for piracy, Gorecho said the increasing number of piracy incidents highlight the risks faced by seafarers, particularly Filipino seafarers.
“The Philippines, which supplies a third of the world’s seafarers’ population, is among the most adversely affected and seriously alarmed by incidences of piracy in the Somali basin and the Gulf of Aden. The hijacking of dozens of vessels, ranging from massive oil tankers to chartered supply ships carrying United Nations food aid for Somalia, has become a highly lucrative industry with millions of dollars paid in ransom each year,” he said.
The maritime lawyer said seafarers are on the frontline of the piracy problem.
“In recent years, thousands of seafarers have been killed, injured, assaulted, taken hostage or threatened as piracy and armed robbery have increased dramatically. All seafarers transiting the Gulf of Aden and Northern Indian Ocean, have to live with the risk of attack. When ships are attacked by pirates, crews suffer the stress of being fired upon with guns and rocket-propelled grenades and those captured can be held hostage for months. Following a piracy attack those involved can be seriously affected by post-traumatic stress,” he said.
Gorecho explained that as a policy, the Philippine government does not negotiate with nor pay ransom to kidnappers, but gives shipowners a free hand in negotiating for the release of abducted Filipino sailors.
According to the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC), “There were reports that pirates now slay their hostages as the shipowners continue to decline giving ransom for the crew,” it said. When they are not killed, the captive seamen suffer intense psychological torture.
Only last week, two Filipino crew members of a Greek-owned cargo ship were released by Somali pirates. They were held captive for 11 months. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the cargo vessel MV Blida was released by the pirates on November 3. The ship then journeyed toward Mombasa in Kenya where the crew members underwent medical checkups. When the seafarers will be repatriated has yet to be scheduled.
The Algerian-flagged and Greek-owned vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates approximately 150 nautical miles off the port of Salalah, Oman on January 1 this year. This, however, was far from being the first case of Filipino seafarers being hostaged by pirates: as of last count, there are still 41 Filipino seafarers being held by pirates in Somalia. Somali pirates are holding on to four other vessels with Filipino crewmen. The pirates are demanding that ship owners give in to their ransom demand.
There is no existing central government in Somalia, and its own authorities find it extremely difficult to control the various lawless armed groups engaged in piracy and ransom kidnappings.
Blaming seafarers for maritime accidents seafarers are also forced to contend with the backlash of maritime accidents, particularly those with environmental repercussions.
Last October, Migrante International appealed for sobriety after the disastrous grounding of the ship MV Rena in New Zealand.
MV Rena, a container ship with an all-Filipino crew figured in a tragic grounding in New Zealand Bay of Plenty causing fuel oil from the ship to spill ashore. Some 1,290 birds and four other animals were killed. There was also reported damage against other marine life.
According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, some racist elements blamed Filipino crew members of MV Rena. He said they received reports that the crewmen were subjected to racist comments causing fear for their safety. A week after the incident, they took flight to the Philippines.
Martinez cited a statement released by the International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) saying that the MV Rena tragedy was “an accident waiting to happen.”
The ISAC said the MV Rena incident “reveals the half-a-century old problem of substandard shipping and the use of Flags of Convenience by unscrupulous ship owners to reduce cost and to amass more profits. The MV Rena is flying the Flag of Convenience of Liberia although the real or beneficial owners are Greek. It is an old and substandard vessel that was built in 1990. For the past 36 months, 50 per cent of inspection for deficiencies resulted in the detention of the vessel. Last July, 21, 2011 it was inspected and detained in Fremantle , Australia for 17 deficiencies.”
“It is not surprising then, that this vessel would figure, sooner or later, in an accident of this sort. Many incidents involving substandard vessels flying Flags of Convenience tragically led not only to massive oil spills but to the loss of human lives. This is regardless of the color of the skin, or of the racial origins of the officers and men crewing these vessels.”
The migrant leader said the MV Rena tragedy brought international attention to the plight of Filipino seafarers and the need for the Philippine government to uphold and protect their rights and welfare. “Our sea-based OFWs are in dire need of welfare and assistance from the Philippine government as much as the land-based,” he said.
Difficulties in litigating
The ISAC said it has always been busy handling cases of seafarers who had been duped by their employers on various grounds concerning their economic rights and benefits. It lamented that the flawed justice system in the Philippines and the inadequate international laws continue to deter action on the cases they are handling.
Finally, the group said “the litigation process is difficult, intricate, and excruciating.” It said that corruption, power plays and the inadequacy of the local and international laws hamper the litigation and execution processes.
For all these problems, however, the maritime sector and Filipino seafarers are hopeful that with the ratification of the MLC, conditions for the industry and for the thousands of seafarers will improve.
10 November 2011
IMO Briefing 52/2011
31 October 2011
As part of IMO’s efforts to promote the implementation of the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (Djibouti Code of Conduct), the foundation stone of the building set to house a regional training centre in Djibouti was laid during a ceremony in Djibouti on Saturday (29 October 2011). The stone was laid jointly by His Excellency Mr. Ismail Omar Guelleh, the President of the Republic of Djibouti, and Mr. Koji Sekimizu, Director, Maritime Safety Division, who represented the Secretary-General of IMO.
The stone laying ceremony for the construction of the Djibouti Regional Training Centre building was also attended by His Excellency Mr. Dileita Mohamed Dileita, Prime Minister of the Republic of Djibouti, His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Ali Yusuf, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Djibouti, His Excellency Mr. Mohamed Moussa Ibrahim Balala, Minister of Equipment and Transport, Republic of Djibouti, as well as other dignitaries.
The training centre will be built using funds donated to the IMO Djibouti Code of Conduct Trust Fund for the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, which has been signed by 18 countries in the region.
The regional training centre will, when completed, be used to coordinate regional training as well as provide a venue augmenting existing training centres for training being conducted within the Djibouti Code of Conduct. A regional training-needs matrix has been agreed, which will form the basis for training throughout 2012 and into 2013, covering such issues as linking legal agencies with maritime law-enforcement agencies, and including workshops to promote an inter-agency approach to maritime security, as well as an increased emphasis on operational coast guarding functions. The most important role of the centre will be matching available training to the region’s training needs and IMO will provide a Training Coordinator in Djibouti from the start of 2012 to deliver this hugely important function across the whole of the region’s training.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to allow the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to fund the building of a regional training centre in Djibouti was signed on 30 May 2011, in Djibouti.
Laying the first stone marks the commencement of the construction of the building which is expected to be completed by September 2012.
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.
The IMO Djibouti Code of Conduct Trust Fund: The fund was established at IMO as a multi-donor trust fund for the implementation of the Djibouti code of conduct and has to date received contributions from France, Japan, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Lloyds List, 28 October 2011
“Crew wellbeing should be top of agenda,” CSR forum is told by shipmanagers Liz McMahon.
THE shipping industry is struggling with huge gaps and a “fundamental disconnect” in the way it applies ideals of corporate social responsibility, according to shipmanagers’ organisation Intermanager, writes Liz McMahon.
Speaking at the first Annual Shipping and Offshore CSR Forum held today in London, Intermanager secretary-general Kuba Szymanski joined several speakers arguing that concepts of social responsibility needed to focus on the seafarer first.
“How can we hug trees when we are not hugging seafarers?” said Capt Szymanski.
Mr Szymanski drew a comparison with how it is natural to see air cabin crew fast-tracked through customs after a six-hour flight because they are perceived to have some kind of privilege, while ships crew are sometimes made to wait for hours after a four-month voyage. He argued that this perception needed to change. While several non-government organisations and environmental pressure groups urged industry representatives to be prepared for “radical transparency” and scrutiny, Capt Szymanski led an industry response that urged any CSR initiative to focus primarily on crew wellbeing.
“We do see people fall asleep on the bridge. Why? Because they are working 92-hour weeks. We do have a disconnect and CSR needs to focus on educating not regulating otherwise it will just become another tick box. Seafarers need to get on board with this,” he argued.
Jon Whitlow, secretary of ITF Seafarers, Fisheries and Inland Navigation, International Transport Workers’ Federation, echoed these sentiments in a later panel debate on the human element of CSR. He agreed there was a huge disconnect in the way seafarers are treated and said a key piece of legislation would be the imminent Maritime Labour Convention, most importantly Article Three which establishes core and fundamental rights for seafarers.
“We see and hear a lot about CSR but it needs to be meaningful and not PR. If we want it to be effective and efficient then we have to empower seafarers. They need to feel free to raise complaints without being scared of losing their jobs.”
He said that while it was not indicative of the industry, incidents like seafarers not being paid while being held hostage by pirates had created a negative image of the industry.
However at the end of the debate, director of projects at the Nautical Institute David Patraiko noted that the MLC only addressed minimum standards for seafarers’ rights and would not provide the necessary framework to empower them.
Navigation safety and environmental protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore could further improve following a detailed investigation into accident reports by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
ICS (as part of a wider initiative being undertaken by the Round Table of international shipping associations) has conducted a survey of incident reports which it is anticipated will result in the development of agreed proposals to enhance the management of traffic in the Straits.
With more than 70,000 vessels each year (over 150 a day) transiting this strategically important international waterway, ICS believes it is imperative that safety continues to be prioritised. While only a very small proportion of these transits result in accidents or near misses, the ICS survey has identified heavy shipping traffic, inappropriate speed and the loss of situational awareness as significant factors that need to be addressed.
The ICS report praises the skill and professionalism of those managing, operating and navigating ships in the Malacca and Singapore Straits. However, ICS suggests that improvements could be made to the location of pilot boarding areas and the timing of pilot departures. There is also concern about the understanding and use of navigation systems such as ECDIS, AIS and radar, both at sea and ashore.
Of the incidents examined, 68% resulted in collisions and all could have potentially caused harm or pollution incidents. The incidents involved a range of vessels from tugs to tankers.
The report recommends the littoral States consider how to address:
* Speed management in the Singapore Straits
* Heavy traffic around pilot boarding areas
* Optimum pilot departure times
* Improved VTS/VTIS interaction with shipping
* Situational awareness
* Pilot, tug, berth availability integration.
ICS met with the littoral States of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, in Kuala Lumpur last week, to present the report’s findings.
ICS Director Marine, John Murray commented: “The littoral States welcomed the report and we were pleased to hear that measures are already being taken to further improve navigational services in the Straits.”
“Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to forward additional accident reports to further enhance the ICS study’s findings, particularly in relation to the Malacca Straits. Singapore will be sending information on measures it has already taken to improve navigational services in relation to the Singapore Straits, which ICS will review by conducting a gap analysis in order to identify remaining safety proposals.”
In conjunction with ICS, it is anticipated that the littoral States will make a joint submission to IMO’s Navigation Sub Committee in July next year, advising of the accident survey and its current status.
International Transport Workers’ Federation press release – 13 October 2011
Research commissioned by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust has highlighted the need for trade unions to embrace electronic means of communication with their seafarer members. Carried out by London Metropolitan University’s Working Lives Research Institute, the project surveyed 1,000 seafarers to find out the best ways to contact them, and how they communicated at sea and on land.
The survey once again underlined the importance of email and web access to seafarers. Among its major findings were:
• Over half of all respondents were union members, but only a third of them were in regular contact with their unions. Awareness of the ITF was high, with seventy per cent reading the organisation’s Seafarers’ Bulletin magazine.
• The best opportunity for communicating with seafarers was either when they were at home or on shore leave. The most popular ways for seafarers to communicate with their friends and family while at sea was by phone from seafarers’ centres (85 per cent), through mobile phone calls (82 per cent) and via SMS (74 per cent).
• Onboard access to email has risen three-fold since 2007 but remains limited. Fifty two per cent of seafarers, and 68 per cent of ratings, said they had no access to email on board
• Access to onboard email also varied according to the vessel type – for example, 67 per cent of the seafarers on board dry bulk carriers and 65 per cent on board general cargo vessels had no email access at all.
• Some 80 per cent of seafarers, and 97 per cent of ratings, said they had no access to the internet while at sea. Where access was available it was expensive, they said.
• Websites are a potential communication tool as 50 per cent of seafarers access the internet at least twice a month while at sea. This rises to 80 per cent when seafarers are at home.
• Some 40 per cent of seafarers said the best way for unions to contact them was by email, although ratings marginally preferred a phone call. Home telephone (29 per cent) and mobile phone (18 per cent) were the next most popular options.
• Seventy per cent of respondents used social networking sites. Facebook was the most popular, while 78 per cent of Chinese seafarers used QQ.
• Officers were much more likely than ratings to use the internet, mobile phones and social networking sites, whether at sea or at home. For example, 82 per cent of the officers accessed the internet every day when they were at home, compared with only 39 per cent of the ratings.
• Ratings relied more often than officers on phones in seafarers’ centres or public phone boxes while on shore leave.
• However officers and ratings had similar levels of access to email when they were on shore leave.
Steve Cotton, ITF maritime coordinator, commented: “These results set us – and every seafarers’ union – a challenge: how best to serve workers who spend a great part of their working lives at sea. Thankfully the technologies are there; the task is to make sure they are as available as possible.”
He continued: “We trust that this research will interest people in unions and beyond. Potentially it has lessons for the whole industry.”
The ITF has made the survey available online in its full form and also as an electronic (and hard copy) leaflet. They can be seen at www.itfglobal.org/seafarers/communicating-with-seafarers.cfm
International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) press release – 11 October 2011
“We have reached the end of our tether on piracy, ” ICS Chairman tells India shipping summit.
“The world community cannot tolerate the abuse and the killing of seafarers,” ICS Chairman Spyros M Polemis told seafarers and maritime industry professionals in India today (11 October), adding that “India and its seafarers have truly been in the firing line.”
“This has to stop now. The pirates must get the message that we have reached the end of our tether and that any act of piracy will be severely dealt with,” he told delegates at the India Shipping Summit in Mumbai.
Warning that the piracy season was about to begin again with renewed vigour as the monsoon season ends, Mr Polemis acknowledged the high price India is paying, with some of its seafarers held hostage for more than 18 months. “India is a nation which is committed to maritime trade in a major way, while its geographical location means that it has been at the forefront of efforts to tackle piracy head on,” he said.
“India is a major maritime labour supply country, providing thousands of Indian nationals, both officers and ratings, to crew the world fleet. Indian seafarers are widely dispersed amongst the international fleet, as well as serving on board Indian Flag tonnage. Sadly this means that Indian nationals have been especially exposed to the risk of attack and capture for ransom by violent Somali pirates,” he added.
Praising the actions of the Indian Government and Navy, Mr Polemis said: “We have been particularly impressed by the seriousness that the Indian Government has afforded this problem and the willingness of the Indian Navy to act robustly against the pirates.”
Urging the Indian Navy to greater efforts, he called on it to focus on inhibiting the activities of motherships, adding: “In particular, it will be most helpful if the Indian Navy can continue to ensure that within some 300 nautical miles of the Indian coast they continue to prevent the pirates from operating, since this provides a relatively safe route for ships to and from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and beyond.”
He advised shipowners and operators to adhere to Best Management Practices (BMP4) and called on the international community to do more to eradicate piracy.
• Navies to act robustly against the pirates
• All motherships, big and small, to be immobilised
• All suspected pirates to be delivered to a court of law and if found guilty to be subject to the full weight of the law
• Pirate bases ashore to be targeted for action
• All hostages and their ships currently in Somalia to be freed
• United Nations to arrange to provide armed military guards, either as part of a Blue Beret force or as a VPD (Vessel Protection Detached Unit)
• All vulnerable merchant ships transiting the Additional War Risk Premium(AWRP) area to receive armed military guards
• All nations in the region to agree and to assist in the embarkation anddisembarkation of private armed guards.
“This is not the time to beat around the bush,” Mr Polemis concluded. “I believe the time for talking has passed – we need action not words.”