Seafarers' charity calls for greater co-operation to tackle piracy

By agency reporter
July 14, 2019

On Sea Sunday (14 July) seafarers' charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) has expressed concern over the effect that piracy continues to have on seafarers' physical and mental wellbeing. 

Statistics released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) this month show that worldwide, pirates killed one seafarer, took 38 crew members hostage, and kidnapped a further 37 for ransom during the first half of 2019.

IMB says the Gulf of Guinea region is a hotspot, accounting for 73 percent of all kidnappings at sea, and 92 percent of hostage-takings. Armed pirates in these high-risk waters kidnapped 27 crew members in the first half of 2019, compared to 25 in the same period in 2018.

Following a pirate attack on a cargo ship in the Gulf of Guinea last year, the vessel's insurer contacted AoS head office in London to request help for the crew. An AoS chaplain went to meet the ship as it took refuge in Ghana, along with two volunteers, both nurses specialising in mental health trauma.

The crew were looked after before being flown home to the Philippines, and were referred to local AoS chaplains in the country for additional support if needed. The seafarers told AoS they felt valued and cared for, and all were back at sea within three months.

"Piracy is a terrifying experience for seafarers," AoS Development Director John Green said. "Piracy and the threat of piracy can have a lasting effect on seafarers' wellbeing and mental health. Our experience of caring for seafarers shows that swift intervention is essential to minimise the impact of a pirate attack, so crew can return to work with confidence," he added.

As the charity marks Sea Sunday, it is calling for all parties in the shipping and maritime sectors, including shipping companies, agencies and insurers, to boost co-operation and coordination. This is essential in providing timely support to seafarers when piracy strikes.

The Vatican's Sea Sunday message notes that "The life of seafarers, although it could appear attractive and interesting in the eyes of some people, because they sail around the world visiting numerous countries, in reality it is full of challenges and hardships."

Ninety per cent of world trade is transported by ship, and more than 100,000 ships visit British ports each year. AoS chaplains and ship visitors welcome seafarers regardless of their colour, race or creed, and provide them with pastoral and practical assistance.

* Apostleship of the Sea

* Independent Catholic News


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