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'Hot' topics discussed at Seatrade Middle East Maritime 2008

Dubai: Piracy and the imprisonment of the 'Hebei Spirit Two' were the talking points that dominated conference sessions at the fourth edition of the Seatrade Middle East Maritime event which drew record attendance in Dubai this week. More than 310 exhibiting companies, including eight national pavilions, took over 4,380 square metres of space at the accompanying exhibition, opened by Dubai World chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem (pictured), the largest maritime gathering in the Middle East.

Addressing the Money & Ships Conference, Peter Swift, managing director of Intertanko; Guy Morel, general secretary of trade association Intermanager; and Malcolm Willingale, director of V.Group whose V.Ships arm manages the vessel, all spoke out against the injustice of the Appeal Court decision to imprison the master and chief officer of the tanker, which was at anchor when collided into by a Samsung crane barge, spilling oil as a result. All lamented the creeping trend towards criminalisation of seafarers and stressed that the priority was to get the men free.

Otherwise shipowners were exercised by the escalating piracy crisis. Mohammad Souri, chairman and md of NITC, evealed that five of his company's ships have been chased and threatened but had escaped by speeding up and outrunning the Somali pirates.

Saleh Al Shamekh, president - oil and gas of National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (NSCSA), said some of his company's vessels had also come under attack off the Somali coast but had escaped, in one case with the protection of an Indian Navy warship. The company is now routeing some vessels via the Cape of Good Hope, he added.

And Jørn Hinge, coo of United Arab Shipping Company (UASC), also revealed two of its container ships had been attacked by the pirates without success.

A dedicated conference session on the subject later discussed the thorny problem of whether vessels should carry armed guards to deter pirates.  Euan Air, Dubai-based head of supply chain security specialist Hart, suggested that 'violence is escalating so the argument guns willescalate violence is spurious.'

The next Seatrade Middle East Maritime is slated to take place in late November 2010; the Money & Ships conference will return in Autumn 2009. [19/12/08]
 

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