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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Proposed speech here in Delhi

It does seem as though some people are beginning to agree with what I write here, especially on the issue of maritime piracy, criminalisation of the seafarer, human relations in the shipping industry and finally, the role of the National maritime authorities. As a result of which, I have been asked to speak at a rather high-level meeting in Delhi on the subject, across different departments,so am sharing the thoughts I want to get across with readers here, first.

Bullet points, which will be expanded, keeping things simple without power points or charts. Please let me know what you think and how I can improve it? This will also help me develop a longer article for the print and net media, and can not be done without help from active seafarers and others ashore.

# As seafarers, it has been made clear to us as adults that this is a risky profession, and we enter it with our eyes wide open. Ships are never going to be zero-defect, and life is not as easy as it seems, with money not being the main motivator any more since you can make much more ashore.

# The training used to be and has to be tough, not just physically, but also mentally. The need to be able to segregate everything else and concentrate dis-passionately on life while afloat has to be acquired, so that risks can be analysed, and acted upon without emotions.

# Piracy at sea is not new, nor is it that romantic feature from movies, nor the big dark guy with a scar and an Islamic head-dress. It has been more in the news now because the kidnap and hold for ransom aspect has spiralled because of Somalia.

# Where piracy resulted in material losses onboard, it never made news, in fact civil authorities will deny it and call it "theft" or they will fudge the records, both of which are nothing new or to be surprised about.

# Where piracy resulted in quick theft of ship as well as loss of life, like in the days of the LTTE around the Bay of Bengal or still ongoing in South China Sea and environs, then also it did not make news because in the book of accounts of shipping companies it became a one-line item under insurance.

# Modern day piracy is well orchestraed by the suits and boots in financial capitals. The targeted hijack of the FAIRCHEM BOGEY in August 2011 as an example.The evidence pointing to coordinated moves from bankers, insurance companies, security companies, even shipowners looking for write-offs. In addition to piracy due to disputes, which is almost legit in some parts of the world, where the ship and crew are held, arrested, kept hostage, sometimes jailed.

# The personal involvement, late Capt. RK Menon, Capt. Prem Kumar, Chirag Bahri, and others who are still stuck and can not be named. The trauma for families, the post release issues. The non payment of dues.  ASPHALT VENTURE owners now willing to pay salaries anymore.

# The invisible shipowner, the pliant ship-manager, the even more pliant DGS, unions, FOC "business" consulates, the tax haven connection, historical linkages of some dominant shipowners themselves with piracy and opium, arms, ammo and money laundering, and the fall guys therein - the seafarers.

# So, seafarer is in for risk, nothing new. But it is the reward or the security which has gone bad over the years. Today, the criminalised or pirated seafarer is ignored. What is new there? What are the solutions?

# Triple wages while in captivity for ANY reason. One to be  paid to the family and two to be placed in escrow till end of episode. Full medical expenses for family and seafarer on return. Kidnap and ransom insurance as is normal for expats in dangerous locations from specialist companies.

# Political solutions, UN, American interests, Diego Garcia, Chinese in Seychelles, Indians Lakshwadeep, Iran issues, larger political picture - all fine, but back to the seafarer and simple solutions therein, instead of just a BMP-4.


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