The SOS SaveOurSeafarers campaign welcomes the extension of the EU counter- piracy operation until end 2014, and the EU decision to broaden the scope of its naval operation in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean by extending the naval forces’ area of operations to include Somali coastal territory which allows it to take more robust action on the Somali coast.
This is a bold step towards the goal that the shipping industry and its seafarers embrace - that of seeing piracy in this region eliminated. Such robust action to eradicate the threat of piracy is necessary if the UK and US governments press on with their avowed ambition of stopping ransom payments to pirates and other groups. SOS was delighted to see Mrs Tebbutt released by her armed kidnappers after a ransom was paid, but there are currently 220 seafarers being held by Somali pirates on 13 vessels, and another 40 being held on land, some of whom have been held for two years. What does the future hold for them if the ability to pay any ransoms is stopped?
SOS has written to the UK Prime Minister and other ministers (attached) making it very clear that hindering in any way the payment of ransoms for ships and seafarers means shipowners can no longer guarantee the safety of their seafarers, as well as of their vessels and the cargoes that they carry. Will seafarers still go through the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden if no ransoms can be paid? Or will seafarers and shipowners be forced to avoid the area completely, with significant consequences to world trade?
SOS SaveOurSeafarers is the biggest ever grouping of the international maritime industry with 30 organisations joined together to raise awareness of the human and economic cost of piracy using approaches to politicians and industrial leaders at the highest level. It started operation in March 2011. Over 108,000 visits have been made to its website from 191 countries and over 31,700 letters sent to governments worldwide. Its main aims are to resolve the piracy problem off Somalia; to see piracy deterred, defeated and eradicated; to stop seafarers being tortured and murdered.