Thursday, March 12, 2015

Seafarers Trust Renews Anti Pirate Welfare Funding as Suez Canal Freighters Subject to Unusual Crime

ITF Wants to See MPHRP Join with ISWAN as Thieves Literally Seek Blood from Sailors
Shipping News Feature

UK – EGYPT – WORLDWIDE – Funding for the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) which launched in September 2011 received a boost this week with a statement from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Seafarers’ Trust that it would continue to support the programme despite its initial funding officially ending this month. Thanks to such support the MPHRP has made a significant contribution to the welfare support of those on freighters and other vessels and their families caught up in and affected by pirate attacks and hijackings.

The Trust points out that the work of the MPHRP has done much to highlight such criminality and focused on the harm done to innocent people by modern day piracy. The Trust states that, although there has been a significant reduction in piracy incidents, more particularly those emanating from Somalia, it has determined it would be wrong for the wealth of experience built up by the MPHRP to be lost by the ending of the programme. Kimberly Karlshoej, head of the Seafarers’ Trust, commented:

“Although the numbers of seafarers being held hostage for long periods of time has fallen, the psychological and physical trauma of seafarers affected by piracy is still a reality. The Trust will continue to ensure the health and welfare of seafarers are prioritised by keeping MPHRP's knowledge and framework in place for the seafarers and their families to receive assistance where and when it is needed.”

The Trust does believe however that, with the drop off of incidents emanating from Somalia, the Programme will need to refocus its work and also wishes the MPHRP to develop plans to become part of an existing charitable structure, such as the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), by the end of 2015. David Heindel, chair of the trustees of the Seafarers’ Trust, commented:

“The MPHRP has done some good work for the benefit of seafarers and their families who have experienced considerable trauma. While Seafarers’ Trust funding was for a finite three years, the trustees believe that the MRHRP deserves the opportunity to continue its good work despite the sharp reduction in piracy incidents since 2011. However, we feel the time is right for the Programme to move under the umbrella of an existing, established charity by the end of the year, and the continued support of the Trust and the new funding is to encourage this. We believe being within an existing charity, such as ISWAN, the MPHRP humanitarian response work will be capable of being continued in the long term.”

Meanwhile the Suez Canal has become the site for a rather bizarre, and seemingly unique, form of maritime crime. This week the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) warns, in addition to various scams people are attempting to perpetrate by way of false website addresses, of unauthorised attempts to gain access to vessels in the Port Said Anchorage.

Characters posing to be representatives of certain local companies  have been attempting to board cargo vessels pretending that they are charged with conducting ‘health checks’ on the crew under the guise of acting as SCA agents. Worryingly these checks involve blood tests, which obviously may carry serious risks in themselves, subsequent to this the criminals’ then request payment from the vessel’s master. The UK P&I Club has issued a Bulletin Number 1026 warning of this crime.

Obviously any person trying to gain access to a ship in this way should be refused until all their credentials are confirmed and any suspicious characters reported immediately to the authorities.

Photo: A Somali pirate reconsiders his options when caught red handed by an automatic bearing Dutch special forces operative aboard a hijacked container ship.