#International Affairs
Governments, International Organizations, and the Maritime Industry

An Open Letter to Governments, International Organizations, and the Maritime Industry

The attack on the M/V Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates has focused world attention both on the heroism of Captain Richard Phillips and his crew and on the vital contributions that the world’s merchant mariners make to global development and prosperity. The 1.2 million merchant mariners operating 100,000 merchant vessels deliver more than 90% of world trade to their markets and destinations.

Pirates threaten merchant mariners’ lives and liberties in Somalia and other parts of the world. In 2008 alone, at least 293 pirate attacks occurred world wide; 49 vessels were hijacked, 46 other vessels were fired upon, 889 seafarers were taken hostage, 32 seafarers suffered injuries, 11 seafarers were killed and 21 seafarers are missing and presumed dead. Since 2003 more than 1660 merchant mariners have been kidnapped or taken hostage, taking a severe toll on mariners and their families.

Piracy is an international crime against all humanity. Every nation may bring pirates to justice and all nations should cooperate in suppressing piracy. The community of nations and the maritime industry has risen to the challenge of attempting to eradicate the scourge of piracy. The International Maritime Organization has created guidelines and recommendations for governments and shipowners on preventing and suppressing piracy. The United Nations has adopted four Security Council Resolutions addressing piracy off Somalia. Naval forces from the European Union, NATO, United States, and several other countries now patrol piracy zones with coordinated efforts to protect threatened shipping lanes. The Maritime industry operates a piracy reporting center that provides real time alerts and guidance to merchant shipping on piracy.

While much needed work has been devoted to preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and bringing pirates to justice, piracy’s mariner victims deserve more attention. Little understanding of the long-term consequences of pirate attacks on seafarers and their families exists. Furthermore, few resources are devoted to caring for piracy victims. While some piracy victims receive counseling and aftercare, the effectiveness of the care is unknown, and no guidelines exist for shipowners on providing for seafarers victimized by piracy.

We call upon the community of nations and industry to extend their anti-piracy efforts by joining the International Christian Maritime Association and the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey in giving increased attention to the effects of piracy on merchant mariners.

Working together, governments, international organizations, maritime industry and non-governmental organizations should:

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.

We depend upon merchant mariners for their contributions to our development and prosperity. We owe them the assurance that we will do everything we can to protect them from piracy—before, during, and long after an attack.

Douglas B. Stevenson
Deborah G. Blanchard

The Protect Merchant Mariners from Piracy petition to Governments, International Organizations, and the Maritime Industry was written by seamenschurch and is in the category International Affairs at GoPetition.