InterManager members have called for more proactive methods to be developed in the protection of ships transiting pirate-infested trade lanes by launching a campaign to allow owners and third party managers the freedom of choice in employing armed guards onboard ships they manage.
The InterManager campaign, which has received more than 90% support from its members, proposes to lobby Flag States and Charterers to review their rules relating to armed guards onboard ship.It claims that any decision taken to provide armed guards should be based on a robust risk assessment of each vessel and its transit and should be in accordance with the guidance set out in Best Management Practices 4 (BMP4) – the recently produced IMO guidelines on the employment of armed guards. Such decisions should be unhindered by restrictive Flag State legislation or Charter Party agreements.
Pressure for greater protection of ships transiting danger areas such as the Gulf of Aden and the NW Indian Ocean has grown following concerns over the effectiveness of naval operations in the area. Notwithstanding the efforts of the international community’s naval forces deployed in the area since 2008, more than 3,500 seafarers have been taken hostage by pirates with around 60 dying as a result of their captivity.InterManager, whose members include ship managers as well as crew managers, is keen to give all support possible to protect its seafarers from the mental and physical torture, degrading treatment, food deprivation and dehydration, that those held hostage suffer.
InterManager believes the shipping industry needs to work closer with those flag administrations, oil majors and bulk charterers who prohibit owners from protecting their assets in the manner to which they believe they should be protected. The current situation creates a disparity between those companies free to involve armed private security and those who are prevented from utilising this option, so increasing unnecessary risk for their crews. Alastair Evitt, InterManager President, said: “At the end of the day it is the welfare of our crew members and their families that is at stake and there can never be too many initiatives running in parallel to address this disgraceful situation.
“Pirates are demanding increasingly larger ransoms as a result of which many ships are being held hostage for longer periods while owners attempt to negotiate deals. This can inevitably cause more personal stress to those captured and their families. “InterManager believes the shipmanagement sector has to utilise all tools available to it to stop ships being hijacked. Statistics to date demonstrate that no ship carrying armed guards has been captured,” he said.