Seafarers’ Plight

David Hughes’ latest article was titled, “Lingering ghost at shipping’s big feast in London”.

“On Monday,” he began, “more than 350 people from the global shipping industry gathered at London’s magnificent and historic Guildhall. The occasion was the 23rd Seatrade Awards Ceremony Dinner. Nowadays, there are many shipping-related awards but Seatrade, I am fairly sure, leads the way and can fairly claim to be the most prestigious.

“It has managed to somehow avoid being just a ‘London event’ but at the same time draws heavily on the UK capital’s heritage. This year, Princess Anne attended as guest of honor. And there was certainly plenty of pageantry, with proceedings interspersed with fanfares from bandsmen of the Guards in full ceremonial outfits including bearskins.

“All that helps, of course, but what makes the Seatrade event special, and an enduring part of the shipping calendar, is that the four main award winners are chosen by a panel of judges drawn from across the shipping sector and chaired by International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos.

“Having such a high-level judging panel is key to making the awards international, and the Guildhall was packed with attendees from around the world. So it was a picture of shipping at its international best, enjoying itself. Except that this year, everything that shipping does is overshadowed by one ghastly thing: Somali piracy.

“Quite rightly so, and the plight of the 650 (or possibly more) seafarers being held in increasingly brutal conditions was the recurring theme throughout the night; from a grace said by the head of the Mission to Seafarers through to an impassioned and blunt speech by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) general secretary David Cockcroft.

“The Princess Royal, too, had plenty to say on piracy. She is well known for taking an interest in shipping and, especially, seafarers’ welfare. Only a few months ago, she was out in the Seychelles looking at the anti-piracy operations based there. She spoke with feeling on the impact piracy was having …

“This is now a big fact of life for all of us in shipping,” Mr. Hughes wrote, “there is no escaping the piracy issue. What is going on is unbelievable and intolerable …”-

The “unbelievable” part is true, Mr. Hughes, but the “intolerable” part isn’t. As we stated in Art. 4 last week, “NATO’s powerful warships could put an end to this fiasco in a matter of seconds, if we wanted to put a stop to those maritime aggressions … Read between the lines. It’s a call for ‘boots on the ground’. And there’s a lot of oil under the ground in Somalia, by the way. We need those pirates to get our show on the road.” [That’s why we’re being tolerant. We have the cannon fodder poised and ready and we’re waiting for just the right moment.]