Pirate attacks and armed robbery operating in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean have remained a threat for the merchant shipping community.
Peter M. Swift, Chairman of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) said the maritime community needs to ensure that best management practices are being implemented by shipping companies and manning agents for the welfare of the people.
MPHRP aims "to assist seafarers and their families with the humanitarian aspects of a traumatic incident caused by a piracy attack, armed robbery or being taken hostage."
They have training guides or courses which include the pre-departure piracy awareness for seafarers. They also have a 24- hour Piracy Helpline, which is international toll-free that uses multilingual.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) already warned that pirates are not taking their holiday and that the ships’ armed personnel must remain on guard to repel pirate attacks.
As of December 17, at least 110 crew are held hostage on board ships while 27 crew are hostage on land. Of the 27 crew detained in Somalia– 2 are Danish, 4 Filipinos, 7 Indians, 4 Koreans, 4 Thais, 5 Syrian and 1 Sri Lankan.
Vessel- type seized by pirates are roll- on roll –off(RoRo), Dhow, container vessel, fishing vessel, chemical and crude tanker.
Data from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) showed, among those seized are M/V AL Naseer, Albedo, Al Farduous, Abdi Khan, Al Wasil, Royal Grace, Naham 3, and Smyrni.
The latest attack was made on the vessel ‘SP Brussels’, in which 5 Indian crew members are held hostage.
Heavily armed pirates boarded the 7,600 dwt chemical tanker while approximately 40 miles off the Niger Delta recently. The pirates ransacked the vessel and took the 5 crew members with them on their departure.
IMB report also showed that, hijack ships which werealready freed or abandoned are M/V Leopard, Asphalt Venture, Gemini, Prantalay 12, Orna and the most recent is the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1 which was released last December 17.
The Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1 had a crew of 22 from the Philippines, India, Yemen, Sudan, Ghana and Pakistan.
In total, they were 24 but two had diedsince the RoRo vessel was seized in March 2010, some 10 miles from Aden.
It was still unknown if ransom was paid but pirates rarely release ships without ransom and in fact charge more for the captives’ expenses.
“MPHRP, a pan-industry alliance of ship owners, managers, manning agents, insurers, maritime unions, professional and welfare associations are working together with governmental organizations,” said Swift.
This charitable, non-political, programme was formally launched in 2011 and is funded by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Seafarers Trust, the TK Foundation and the International Group of P&I.