The 21st Asian Shipowners Forum, which concluded its annual meeting in Port Douglas, Australia on Tuesday, expressed alarm over what it said may be an unintended effect of the European Commission’s sanctions against Iran.
It said the sanctions include a prohibition of insurance cover from members of the “International Group” of protection and indemnity insurers for ships carrying Iranian crude oil, petroleum or petrochemical products, or for ships, perhaps inadvertently, carrying Iranian origin bunker fuel in their bunker tanks.
Robert Ho, acting chairman of ASF’s ship insurance and liability committee, said “the clearly unintended effect of these sanctions could be disastrous. The P&I Clubs of the International Group provide very high limits and breadth and scope of liability for victims of maritime incidents, and has little, if any, benefit for the targets of the sanctions.”
ASF called on the EC “to reassess this aspect of the sanctions, and to make permanent the temporary exemption for liability insurance and reinsurance.”
A report by the Bloomberg wire service on Tuesday said the European Union’s ban on Iranian oil that takes full effect July 1 is already curbing ship charters as tanker owners avoid bookings to ship Iranian crude.
ASF praised the decision by the EC to begin attacking on-shore Somalia pirate bases. In a statement, Noel Hart, ASF chairman, said a May 15 attack “sent a clear signal that piracy cannot be tolerated. Blatant attacks on innocent ships and seafarers must be stopped. The ASF urges continuing and stronger political will to address the root causes of piracy – on land in Somalia.”
Li Shanmin, chairman of ASF’s seafarers committee, said “The situation continues to be a serious crisis, one that deeply affects the mental health of seafarers and their families. The threat cannot be forgotten and we demand that all possible action is taken to alleviate the situation.” The group expressed concern for 197 seafarers currently being held hostage on hijacked ships, as well as seven Indian seafarers who continue to be held hostage despite payment of ransom.
Patrick Phoon, chairman of ASF’s committee for safe navigation and environment, said there were 439 incidents of piracy and armed robbery attacks worldwide in 2011, and noted in addition to Somalia there’s an increase in priracy in West Africa, particularly off the coasts of Benin and Nigeria.
On other subjects ASF:
- Expressed support for the Hong Kong Ship International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally-Sound Recycling of Ships, urging IMO member states to ratify and the world shipping industry to support the convention. It said the agreement will improve ship recycling safety and quality.
- Voiced concern about toll increases at the Suez and Panama canals, noting the shipping market is stagnant. “It is very hard to accept any toll increases implemented without close and interactive dialogue with the shipping industry,” the group said.