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Indian seafarers warn of possible boycott of Somalian waters

Indian seafarers warn of possible boycott of Somalian waters

Mumbai: The National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) has written to the Secretary, Ministry of Shipping regaring the apprehension of seafarers trading in the pirate infested region and warned the government about a possible boycott call by NUSI to seafarers if the situation does not improve.

This morning, the NUSI and Maritime Union of India (MUI) led a peach march in Mumbai for the release of the seafarers of "Stolt Valor" held in Somalia. The march started at the Royal Seamens Club on Ballard Estate and culminated at the Office of the Director General of Shipping (DGS). 12 other NUSI branch offices are also conducting similar peace marches in other Indian cities.

In a statement to the press, the NUSI said, 'This whole effort is to highlight the cause of the seafarers who are called the "Second Line of Defence" of the nation. When they are in crisis, it is the duty of the Government to come to their aid and not leave them to fend for themselves as in the case of Stolt Valor.

'The Indian Shipping Fraternity is disturbed by the inaction of the Government of India (GOI) in coming to seek a positive solution to this impasse of Stolt Valor and to ensure safety of Indian seafarers trading in those areas,' it continued, adding, 'Seafarers have become "sitting ducks" in the pirate infested area of Somalia. The GOI has to act and act now and give a sense of confidence to the seafarers trading there.'

The protests highlight an increasingly important issue within the  shipping industry, and one that led major shipping industry organisations BIMCO, Intercargo, The International Group, InterManager, Intertanko, IPTA, ITF, IUMI, OCIMF, SIGTTO and ICS to issue an impassioned plea for action to protect merchant ships from pirates in the Gulf of Aden at the start of this week's IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting.

In a statement, the organisations said, 'This is an enormous area of water through which passes a significant portion of the world's trade and an even more significant percentage of its oil supply - more than 10% of the world's traded oil.  At any one moment around 300 ships are passing through the area serving the needs of the nations and peoples of the world; their right to the freedom of the High Seas for lawful purposes is under intolerable threat from organised criminals.  The stress on the captured crews and on other seafarers who listen to their frantic, often unanswered, radio calls for assistance can scarcely be imagined.'

'The fact that successful attacks are being carried out with ruthless determination, virtually every single day and that a dozen ships and more than 250 seafarers are being held captive, today, demonstrates without a shadow of doubt that insufficient resources are being applied to this shocking problem.'
Accordingly the organizations have asked for three specific things: a commitment to increased numbers of deployed warships in the Gulf of Aden and to their coordinated action; the renewal of UN Security Council resolution 1816 for a longer time frame and to strengthen the text on actions required to repress piracy and an agreement to establish a legal jurisdiction to identify and punish criminals under due process.  [07/10/08]