UN Consultations on Countering Maritime Piracy

Dec 3, 2009

UN Consultations on
Strengthening Contribution of the United Nations
in Countering Maritime Piracy

Delivered December 1, 2009

Remarks by Douglas B. Stevenson,
The Seamen’s Church Institute

Thank you Ambassador Sergeyev.

I am grateful to Ukraine for organizing this consultation, for inviting me to speak, and, most importantly, for putting seafarers’ issues on the agenda.

I also thank all of the nations represented here that have provided resources to the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean to help suppress piracy in that region. I recently returned from a voyage through the Gulf of Aden on a container ship. I saw first hand naval units’ responses to a suspected piracy incident, and I saw that the seafarers were reassured by and grateful for the naval units’ presence.

There has been a considerable effort by the international community of nations and the maritime industry to prevent, detect, and suppress piracy. This work is very important and must continue.

I ask that similar efforts be devoted to another area that has not received sufficient attention: providing for seafarers and their families who have been affected by pirate attacks or the threats of attack.

In 2008, the UN Security Council adopted five resolutions on piracy in Somalia, but only one of them made any reference to seafarers – and that one was only a passing reference, almost like an afterthought.

Both the IMO and the Contact Group have adopted guidance for shipowners and flag states on responding to pirate attacks, but none of them give any guidance on providing for the needs of seafarers and their families. The post attack guidance on dealing with seafarers is for military intelligence or prosecutorial purposes . . . not for seafarers’ well-being.

  • What happens to the seafarers’ and their families who have been affected by piracy?
  • Do you know how many seafarers have been attacked by pirates?
  • Do you know their names or what has become of them?
  • Are they still working as seafarers?
  • Where do they go for help?

If you don’t know, don’t feel alone. I don’t know either. No one knows. No one is keeping track of the seafarers who have been held hostage, attacked or otherwise affected by pirates. No one knows if seafarers are affected by pirate attacks. There is no central resource where seafarers, shipowners, and flag states can go for information on responding to the effects of piracy on seafarers.

A couple of years ago we proposed that the effects of piracy on seafarers should be studied, that guidelines on caring for seafarers needs during and after a pirate attack should be created, and that a resource center for piracy survivors should be established.

Up to now, little progress has been made on these recommendations. We therefore have initiated a groundbreaking multi-year study of clinical assessment and treatment for survivors of piracy attacks. The program seeks to identify unique stressors of piracy hostage situations, along with immediate and ongoing medical evaluation strategies for crewmembers and their families. Study outcomes will include plans to care for families during captivity, clinically assess seafarers after piracy incidents, assist families during prolonged piracy episodes, and triage short- and long-term mental health treatment. Study beneficiaries include ships’ crews and their families; ship operators and their human resource departments; and maritime insurers.

A critical element in the study will be our gaining access to seafarers who have encountered piracy incidents or threats. We ask your assistance in gaining access to such seafarers. I can assure you that the clinical study will be conducted at the highest scientific and ethical levels.

We are preparing preliminary guidelines for the post-piracy care of seafarers that will be ready for distribution in the very near future. We hope that these guidelines, which will be updated as we learn from our clinical study, will be used by the IMO, the Contact Group, shipowners, insurers, flag states and others with an interest in caring for seafarers and their families. In the meantime, we are available to consult with shipping companies, insurers, and states in developing treatment programs on caring for seafarers and their families who have been affected by piracy.

Seafarers are vitally important to the world’s commerce and prosperity. We depend upon them and we owe them the assurance that we will do everything we can to protect them from piracy – before, during, and long after an attack.