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Industry appeals to UN over MSC Aries seizure

IRNA video screenshot MSC-Aries-Boarding.jpg
Shipping associations have called for greater military presence in the middle east to protect vessels and seafarers from escalating threats.

The letter addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was signed by 16 maritime associations: ASA, Bimco, CLIA, ECSA, Intercargo, Intermanager, Intertanko, IAPH, ICS, IFSMA, IMCA, IMEC, IPTA, ITF, Fonasba, and WSC.

The associations specifically call for the UN to remind member states of their responsibilities under international law, a reference to freedom of navigation under UNCLOS among other regulations.

The letter requested an enhanced military presence, missions and patrols in the region to protect seafarers in the region given the severe and evolving threat to shipping. The signatories also asked for all efforts to be made to release the seafarers on MSC Aries.

The 15,000 teu container ship MSC Aries was seized by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz on April 13 with 25 crew onboard. Iran said the ship was targeted due to its links to Israel; tensions between the two nations have risen since the start of April.

MSC reported on April 17 that the crew were safe and that it was working with Iranian authorities to secure the release of the crew and cargo as soon as possible.

The text of the letter to the UN is reproduced in full below:


 For the attention of His Excellency António Guterres
United Nations Secretary General
United Nations Headquarters
E 46th St & 1st Ave
New York 10017
United States of America

Thursday 18 April 2024


Joint open letter following the seizure of the MSC Aries


Re: Shipping industry call for help following the seizure of the MSC Aries and its crew members


Your Excellency Secretary-General Guterres,

The maritime industry, represented by the organisations behind this letter, are grateful for the recognition that the UN Security Council and you personally have placed on the shipping industry and the importance of the free movement as set out in international law. We also thank and applaud IMO Secretary General Arsenio Dominguez for all the hard work raising the profile of shipping and our seafarers.

However, the incident this weekend, when the vessel MSC Aries was seized by Iranian forces at 06.37 UTC – 50 nautical miles north-east of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates on Saturday 13 April, has once again highlighted the intolerable situation where shipping has become a target. This is unacceptable.

We have seen a worrying increase in the attacks on shipping. Shipping is not a target with no victims. Innocent seafarers have been killed, seafarers are being held hostage. This would be unacceptable on land, and it is unacceptable at sea.

The world would be outraged if four airliners were seized and held hostage with innocent souls onboard. Regrettably, there does not seem to be the same response or concern for the four commercial vessels and their crews being held hostage.

Seafarers kept the world fed and warm during the pandemic with vital medicine, food and fuel delivered, irrespective of politics. Seafarers and the maritime sector are neutral and must not be politicised. It is the moral duty to protect seafarers.

Shipping is a resilient industry, throughout history it has delivered trade in the face of the most overwhelming threats and circumstances.

Given the continually evolving and severe threat profile within the area, we call on you for enhanced coordinated military presence, missions and patrols in the region, to protect our seafarers against any further possible aggression.

The industry associations ask that all member states be formally reminded of their responsibilities under international law. And we ask that all efforts possible are brought to bear to release the seafarers and protect the safe transit of ships.

Yours faithfully,