Shipmanagement Bosses ‘Helpless’ Over Hostage Talks

The heads of two leading shipmanagement companies are calling for more co-ordinated action among all shipping industry stakeholders to prevent and combat piracy attacks.

V.Ships president Roberto Giorgi and Anglo-Eastern Ship Management chief executive Peter Cremers told Lloyd’s List of their frustration and a feeling of helplessness that there is little they can do to speed the release of their crews because negotiations with the pirates are in the hands of the shipowners and insurers.

“We are both very upset and the industry needs to do something more,” Mr Giorgi said.

Each of the companies has a vessel under management being held by pirates. V. Ships is crew manager for the Italian registered aframax tanker Savina Caylyn , which was hijacked in February. The vessel is owned by Italian company D’Amato , which also provides technical management, but V.Ships has five Italian and 17 Indian crew members onboard who have been held for seven months while ransom negotiations continue.

Anglo-Eastern is manager for the 25,390 dwt, Marshall Islands-flagged chemical tanker Fairchem Bogey, which was audaciously taken from Salalah anchorage earlier this month. The ship is owned in the US but Anglo- Eastern has about 21 Indian crew members onboard.

“Our position as manager is difficult as we have no formal role in negotiations. Crew managers should have an input especially out of respect for the crew,” Mr Giorgi said. “Shipmanagers are helpless when ships are hijacked. Despite our crew being held hostage we have no role in negotiations. Seafarers are not being shown proper respect.”

He said that all the crew manager can do is to provide support for the seafarers’ families, who often come from small close-knit communities and face a horrible time.

“We try to put pressure on all stakeholders, including the shipowner, cargo owner and flag state but we have no direct involvement.”

Mr Giorgi said that pirates were becoming more sophisticated in negotiating strategies.

“When ships are captured we do not know how long they will be held and the price demanded for ransom seems to be increasing.”

He added that with many shipowners facing increasingly tough financial problems, there was greater pressure on them with regard to limiting payment of ransoms. This often prolongs the time that ships and crews are held. For negotiators the prime concern is the physical asset. Cargo owners should also make a contribution towards the expenditure involved.

“The area of pirate activity is so large that navies cannot protect ships. Flag states should take a different approach, to work with owners to get solutions. The key priority is to prevent ships being hijacked, which needs more support by charterers and flag states. The International Maritime Organization should take a stronger stance with flag administrations with regard to allowing armed guards onboard ships. All stakeholders should line up together, but at present that is not the case. If there was more cohesion we could get better results,” Mr Giorgi said.

“Most owners want to put armed security guards onboard their ships but some are prevented from doing so by flag states and insurers. Owners should have the freedom to protect their vessels. Flag states and insurers should not prevent them, otherwise owners will not carry cargo through unsafe areas,” he said. “For managers it should be imperative for ships to carry armed guards. If the risk is such that the vessels cannot sail safely through the area, the owner must take a different route.”

Without more co-ordinated action by the whole industry “there is a real danger of these areas becoming effectively unsafe for shipping”.

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