ITF: Seafarers can refuse to sail pirate waters
The International Transport Workers’ Federation said Monday the threat of attack to merchant ships by Somali pirates has become so great that 'putting seafarers in harm's way amounts to a breach of the ship owner's duty of care.'
The labor group said ships should only transit the area 'in exceptional circumstances.
It’s not clear if the ITF statement will have any affect on how ships are routed, but the group said it “threw down the gauntlet to those flag states and ship owners who have not taken action to fight Somali piracy to act now, before the threat makes it virtually impossible for seafarers to pass through the ever-widening danger area.”
'There are countries actively fighting piracy and there are owners training and supporting their crews to resist it,” said ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton. “Then there are others who are shirking responsibility and as good as accepting its steadily growing menace, which has now brought us to the point where one of the world's great trading routes is now almost too dangerous to pass through.'
The ITF said, “Seafarers should suffer no detriment from refusing to take ships into these high risk areas. Seafarers have a right to refuse to put themselves in harms way and the right to be relieved before the ship enters a high-risk area. The ITF calls on flag states and ship owners to uphold seafarers' rights in this regard.”
The group also reaffirmed its position that seafarers should not be armed, and called on “the wider shipping industry to support this position and to take all measures to ensure the protection of seafarers by not putting them in harms way.
'Today's statement reflects the frustration of all those who work at sea at the dire situation we've reached. One where pirates act virtually unmolested and, even if intercepted, with virtual impunity from arrest. It calls into question the very legality of continuing to send ships through much of the Indian Ocean. It is therefore imperative that not only must protective escorts be used but that flag states immediately decide on the protective measures that they must recommend for the ships that are flying their flag and that those ships' operators comply with them,” Cotton said.
'We, and many others, also want to see the end of what's virtually an open secret in shipping — that many of the world's largest ship registers have provided not one vessel to patrol an ocean that can only be made safe by an increase in the number of warships needed to aggressively patrol and police it. I am not aware of a single flag of convenience country that is acting in this way to protect the ships that are supposedly their responsibility,' he said.