Protect our seafarers, Philippine envoy urges ship ownersBy Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Do everything to protect Filipino seafarers from pirate attacks.
The plea was made by the Philippine government to ship owners and the governments of countries whose flags they fly at a ministerial meeting on combating piracy at the International Maritime Headquarters in London on May 16.
Ambassador Enrique Manalo, Philippine permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), urged the ship owners and governments to ensure a safe working environment for their seamen, especially when their vessels traverse the dangerous waters off Somalia where pirate attacks have increased in recent years.
“The Philippine government ensures that Filipino seafarers are competent and fully qualified. The duty of the crew is to safely operate the ships which carry 80 percent of global trade. It is in turn the responsibility of the shipping companies and flag states to protect them from the scourge of piracy as they carry out this duty,” said Manalo at the opening of the 90th Session of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee, the organization’s primary governing body.
Best management practices
Manalo said the Philippine government continued to advocate for the best management practices (BMPs) drawn up by the commercial shipping sector as the primary defense against pirate attacks.
These practices include ringing a vessel with razor wire to stop pirates climbing aboard; joining ship convoys traveling under the protection of naval escorts; and preparing citadels or safe rooms where a crew may seek shelter as they await rescue by naval forces deployed for the purpose in the waters off Somalia.
Noting that merchant vessels were being successfully protected by privately contracted armed guards onboard, he said the Philippines had participated in international efforts to regulate the deployment of armed guards in order to weed out incompetent and ill-trained security personnel.
“While the adoption of BMPs is our preference, the use of armed guards complements its implementation thereby providing better protection to the crew,” Manalo said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said it was making representations with shipping foreign principals and local manning agencies to have their vessels travel along a safe corridor. It said it had also taken up the issue of maritime safety in the United Nations and other international organizations.
The Philippines is a member of the 70-nation Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which includes the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom, among other countries.