Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Transport Workers Union Calls On All Nations To Do Their Part To Protect Freight Shipping

States Concerns Over Royal Navy Cuts
Shipping News Feature

UK / WORLDWIDE – Following on from the news that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, intends to licence British-flagged freight vessels to carry armed security personnel to repel pirate attacks as well as the announcement that cuts to the Royal Navy had meant that no warship had been available throughout the whole of October to deal with any crisis in British waters the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has warned that it is concerned that the Royal Navy will not be able to play its part in the effective protection of international trade should the fleet’s numbers continue to be reduced.

“We welcome David Cameron's interest in maritime affairs, but we also have to warn him that the current defence cuts are likely to compromise the Royal Navy's ability to fight piracy," said David Cockroft, the ITF’s General Secretary.

The Royal Navy has been forced to reduce its strength in the last year from twenty-four frigate and destroyers to nineteen, a level that means that the force has been unable to provide its minimal coverage of at least one vessel for the Fleet Ready Escort (FRE) role – rapid response to a crisis or terrorist action in British waters – due to unforeseen demands for ships to cope with the Libyan situation.

“Somali-based piracy has been allowed to become so successful, savage and wide-ranging that seafarers’ and seafaring organisations’ worries about armed guards have had to be set aside. However, guards can never be anything but a supplement to the sorely-tried existing naval presence, which is now trying to cover an entire ocean,” Cockcroft said. 

Failing this, he added that the ITF “…like the International Shipping Federation and International Chamber of Shipping, would like to see on-vessel detachments made up of the ship’s flag state [military] forces whenever possible.”

He continued: "Sadly no move is without risks. Pirate gangs are making fortunes out of their crimes. It is easy for them to reach for heavier and heavier weapons and turn to obscene levels of violence to counter defensive measures.”

The ITF also called on the world’s nations to cooperate more fully in dealing with the problem of piracy. The organisations seafarers’ section chair, Dave Heindel, said that: “What’s an open secret is the yawning gap in flag state responsibility. While some nations and their armed forces are doing an amazing job, others are shirking their responsibilities.

“Until more countries are prepared to patrol, arrest and prosecute, and to take the fight to the pirates and their bases – which are often fuel dumps and facilities in plain view right on the beaches – the world will continue to be held to ransom, and innocent seafarers to risk imprisonment, torture and, ultimately, death,” he warned.

(pic: Fleet Review 1953. How things change…)