Three seafarers who had been held by Somali pirates for over four and a half years returned home to a huge welcome organised by the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour and Capt Nguyen Viet Anh, the MPHRP welfare responder who has been caring for the families. A number of reporters from domestic and foreign news services were also participating in the event.

For almost a year the homecoming had been planned, as the Hostage Support Partnership worked to release the hostages from Kenya. Finally they were freed on 22 October, arriving in Kenya on Sunday 23 and in Hanoi at 1pm on Tuesday 25 October. Viet Anh prepared a reception for the three men, arranging transport for the families to come from their home villages to meet them at the airport in Hanoi and to stay in a hotel for two nights to allow the seafarers some space with their closest relatives, before returning to their home villages.

During the time when they were in Hanoi the men were able to stay together, and have meals with their families and close relatives. They also had a medical check before being provided with transport home. Capt Viet Anh reported that “the Naham 3 seafarers have been safely and smoothly repatriated to Vietnam. Since getting home they seem to have been quickly integrated back into their community. The medical examinations showed them to be in good health.”

During the absence of the hostages in Somalia, Capt Viet Anh searched for the families of the captured men in Vietnamese fishing villages and eventually found them all. Through his intervention, the programme has provided funds to assist with the schooling and support of children and for medical expenses. Viet Anh has kept in constant touch with the families. On being reunited, the families expressed their gratitude to the humanitarian help from MPHRP and from him, that they said “contributed to make their sons, their husbands, to be reborn.”

The seafarers from the Naham 3 have returned without any wages being paid since March 2013, nothing having been paid to sustain the families apart from charitable contributions. The programme will continue to support their rehabilitation now they are home, as it has done for many other seafarers who have survived Somali piracy. The funding to support the seafarers in Vietnam has come from the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia Piracy Survivor Family Fund, administered by ISWAN. 

Four Cambodian seafarers were among the crew of the Naham3, which was captured by Somali pirates off Seychelles in March 2012. They have been released from captivity on 22 October 2016, and will be back in Cambodia reunited with their families very soon. The story below was written about the family of one of the men while they were still in captivity, and can now be published.

Mr. Ngem Soksan lived in Dokpor village in Kampong Chnang province. He went to work as a seafarer in 2010, to support his wife and small daughter. Arriving in Japan in October 2010, Mr Soksan rang his wife to let her know he had arrived safely and was intending to become a fiN Housesherman. In November in another call, he let his wife know that he was finding life extremely difficult. After this, his phone was cut off.

Later in November 2012 she received the call to inform her he had been captured by pirates. He was highly distressed, being held hostage in a forest with pirates. He said: ' I live like in hell, maybe I don't survive to go back to Cambodia at all so, don't wait for me...' Then she received no further news.

Left without their husband and father, on top of their distress his family had little money to survive. Without an income or land to cultivate, their living situation worsened each day. "I and my daughter are still alive through selling my labor wage for a daily life" Sopheap added. Left with no choice, after 6 months of poverty she had to remove her daughter from school to become a garment worker. Sopheak is 12, and is 2 years behind in her education as a result. She had only 2 school uniforms and no books or study materials.

Sopheap asked her brother to build a small living area on his land. Her and her daughter lived in a small cottage made from bamboo and palm leaf. The walls of the cottage were fragile and offered no privacy. There was no clean water, and no electricity. At night time they used lamps and petrol. The house was not safe. When it rained the house was damp, and it was often very cold at night. They lived on $80 a month, using it for rice and basic food, transport and medicine. Sometimes they could only afford sweetened rice for lunch.N family

MPHRP/ISWAN has worked with Caritas Cambodia to build a safe and warm house and provide materials for Sopheak's education. Mrs. Apinya Tajit, Vice-Chairperson ISWAN South East Asia (SEA), organised the application and distribution of funds.

The new house is 4m wide and 7m long and completely built from cement (wall and the ground floor) and the roof is covered with the zinc-iron. In the house, there are separate bedrooms and living spaces. A bicycle, school uniforms, shoes, bag, writing books and study materials have been provided to support to Sopheak. Sopheak was very excited; she can now get to school on time and has no need to walk or borrow a bicycle from neighbours, and has 2 good clean uniforms to wear, as well as enough study materials for the whole year.

Sopheap and Sopheak celebrated their new house on 14 July 2016. During the celebration they invited the commune leader, village leader and neighbours. After a blessing from the Buddhist Monk the celebrations began.

Commune leader and village leader, would like to express their feelings and thanks to Mrs. Apinya, ISWAN, PSFF and Caritas Cambodia that helped this vulnerable family to have proper shelter and the opportunity for study.

Kong Sopheap 41 years old, wife and Tom Sopheak, daughter, speaking in July 2014 before the release of their Ngem:

We are feeling very excited to hearing that my husband still alive. We don't know how to express our feeling besides of raise our hand up and seeking your understanding and please help and release him to be back home in order to live with us with peace and harmonization. Because we are really poor we don't have anything to give back to all of you at all.


I and my daughter were living far away from my husband for so long, we feel missed him so much. We really need him to be back home to complete our family's life and give us warm, give us shadow, taking a good care for us and supporting us. Especially my daughter she is so young and strongly need the care from parents mainly father, also she needs to continue to study too.


Brothers and sisters, please help to lobby the pirates and help to release my husband. I do hope that my husband can come home very soon.
I and my daughter really deep thanks to everybody that have help us a lot, your helping not only house and materials but you all make me feel warm, give us hope and proud for the future life. We pray for you all to have good health, success in your duty and please kindly help my husband to come back home safely soon. We will never forget everything you help but we will take a good care of this house and waiting for my husband and father to come and living as a family all together.

Kong Sopheap

My name is San Sothorn, I am older brother of Ngem but we have different mother.

I always thought that my youngest brother was passed away since 2012, because he called us he has no chance to be back to Cambodia while the pirates arrested him. But now I feel so excited to hear that he still alive.

I beg to the pirate please soon allow my brother to come home and please all of you who come here helping him to reunite his family. House he was living with family, right now no person to stay in but we still keep it and waiting him to come for reunites the family.

28 October 2016

A vessel which had already been detained following a Port State Control inspection by MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) surveyors in Cardiff, Wales, has been issued with a further detainable deficiency notice after it was discovered the crew had not been paid for many months.

“The state of the vessel is bad enough from a maintenance point of view,” explained International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) inspector Tommy Molloy. “It is self-evident that no money is being spent on the basics and, as is usual with such shipowners, the crew are also not being paid.”

The Malta-registered Svetlana has been in Cardiff since 8 October 2016. The MCA had suspended their inspection and detained the vessel for a number of deficiencies and returned when the owner claimed to have rectified matters. However, it was then discovered that the Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian crew had not been paid wages and a further deficiency notice was issued.

The MCA made a request for the ITF to attend in order to aid the crew and assist with the calculation for owed wages. Mr Molloy then discovered that since the crew had joined, only small, infrequent cash payments had been received. “One man had not been paid since he transferred to the ship in June and had not been paid the three months wages he was owed from his employment on the ship he was transferred from.”

Mr Molloy also discovered that wages were the lowest he had seen for a long time and were certainly below the International Labour Office (ILO) minimum referred to in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC)*. He calculated the wages owed at the ILO minimum level and submitted the claim to the company, along with other amounts for additional work for which payment had been promised but never materialised. The crew had also been forced to purchase their own personal protective equipment such as safety footwear and overalls, before joining, which is totally unacceptable. The owners were invited to enter into discussions to sign an ITF agreement which would provide acceptable minimum employment standards for the crew.

The company responded by accusing the inspector of acting illegally, of blackmail and by insisting they would only pay what was written on contracts, however low.

Unfortunately the MCA have appeared reluctant to push for payment of ILO minimum wages and the flag state, Malta, has declined to respond.

“To me it is clear,” said Mr Molloy. “The MLC requires member states that have ratified to establish procedures for determining minimum wages for seafarers and that when doing so they should give consideration to those set by ILO. I have asked how low wages can be set before it becomes an issue for the Malta shipping register.”

Worse still, he has learnt from maritime welfare organisations in Cardiff that the third officer has now been sacked. “It seems the company has determined that as he is the only claimant who speaks fluent English it must have been him who called the ITF to complain about not getting paid. This is his reward. In fact he did not call us. The request to visit came from the MCA.”

“We have had similar dealings with this operator before. They have been described as being at the very low end of the industry, and the MLC was designed to give seafarers protection against exactly this kind of sub-standard outfit.”

*For more about the MLC see http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/maritime-labour-convention/news/WCMS_219628/lang--en/index.htm

ISWAN warmly welcomes the release of the hostages from the FV Naham 3

Nairobi, Kenya – 22 October 2016: The Hostage Support Partners announce the release of the 26 remaining hostages of the FV Naham 3. The Omani flagged fishing vessel was hijacked on 26 March 2012 roughly 65 nautical miles south of the Seychelles. Of the original 29-member crew, sadly one died during the hijacking and two more succumbed to illness during their captivity. The remaining 26 crewmembers spent much of their captivity on land in Somalia. The crew of the Naham 3 consisted of members from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“We are very pleased to announce the release of the Naham 3 crew early this morning. They are currently in the safe hands of the Galmudug authorities and will be repatriated using a UN Humanitarian flight shortly and then on to their home countries. They are reported to be in reasonable condition considering their ordeal. They are all malnourished. Four are currently receiving medical treatment by a Doctor in Galcayo. They have spent over four and a half years in deplorable conditions away from their families,” said John Steed the Coordinator of the Hostage Support Partners (HSP) for Oceans Beyond Piracy. I would like to thank the efforts of our Partners, the Galmudug authorities and the local community who made this release possible. In particular, the efforts of Mr Leslie Edwards of Compass Risk Management who has spent the last 18 months negotiating this release, and the work of Holman Fenwick Willan LLP, should be applauded."

 

NAHAM 3 CREW ABOUT TO DEPART GALKAYO on UN Flight 23.10.16

 

The crew of the Naham 3 were held for 1672 days. They are the second longest held hostages by Somali pirates after the 4 hostages of the FV Prantalay 12, released last year by the HSP. Their road to freedom has been long and filled with peril. The Naham 3 was originally tethered to another hijacked vessel, the MV Albedo taken in November 2010 (and released by the HSP in 2013). When the MV Albedo began to sink, with its crew onboard, the crew of the Naham 3 courageously assisted in their rescue by jumping into the ocean to save the drowning seafarers. Over a year after its capture, the Naham 3 sank and the crew was brought ashore, where they were subject to much greater risks. Despite their release today their journey is not over, as the crew will still experience effects from their captivity for years to come. The crew will need comprehensive physical and psychological support in the years to come to help ease their return to a normal life, the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is stood by to help in this process.

The release of the Naham 3 crew represents the end of captivity for the last remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy. While overall numbers are down in the Western Indian Ocean, the OBP State of Piracy study found that in 2015, pirates in the region attacked at least 306 seafarers. The threat of piracy remains and the shipping industry is encouraged to continue to follow Best Management Practice 4 to mitigate against the risks of piracy in the Western Indian Ocean.

 

NAHAM 3 CREW DEPART GALKAYO 23.10.16

 

Richard Neylon and George Lamplough of international law firm Holman Fenwick Wllian LLP, an active member of the Hostage Support Partners commented: "This long road started in 2005 when the first major commercial vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates. Over the past 11 years, the shipping industry and its seafarers have suffered terribly in the hands of Somali pirates. We are delighted and relieved that these last 26 seafarers, captured during the darkest days of Somali piracy, are now able to return home to their families".

Whilst there has not been a successful attack on a commercial vessel since 2012, there have been a number of attacks on fishing vessels and there remains a number of hostages still held in Somalia: 10 Iranians from the FV Siraj (taken in 2015), 3 Kenyan kidnap victims (including a sick lady) remain in the hands of pirates and a number of AMISOM soldiers remain captives of Al Shabaab . Additionally the HSP tracks a number of people who were kidnapped and are still missing after several years, including Dr Murray Watson, Patrick Amukhuma and Dheeraj Tiwari.

ISWAN/MPHRP will assist the seafarers and their families when they return home to their countries.

 

NAHAM 3 CREW ABOARD UN PLANE AT GALKAYO

Tagged under

ISWAN-MPHRP consistently provides assistance to families affected by maritime piracy. Regular assurance calls and visits are priorities of the programme especially for the families of seafarers who are still in Somalia. The programme provides emotional, psychological and practical support. The charitable funds are provided by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and medical and educational support has been generously given by the Sailors Society. While some needs can be met, the resources of the programme are limited and cannot fully sustain all their needs, so much of the burden of support falls on extended families.


A certain mother of a piracy hostage in Somalia was helped with medical assistance due to her painful appendicitis. The family struggled to send the mother to the hospital for a check-up and medication and was forced to go further into debt to provide the necessary treatment for her. The indebtedness started when the hostage decided to go to sea and they mortgaged their small rice plantation just to complete all the necessary requirements for him to go on board the ship. But unfortunately the dream became a nightmare to the family when the seafarer was captured by Somali pirates.


The programme was able to help the family for medical expenses and a small subsistence allowance as well. In addition, the land has been redeemed back for the family to help them survive since there would be no other alternative resources for them because they are situated in the agricultural capital and farming is the only way. The family expressed their heartfelt gratitude and said that they will never forget what has been done to help them. Jun Pablo, the ISWAN representative in the Philippines, said “Through this kind of service provided to the affected families, truly we can say that the word humanitarian can be best remembered.”

28/09/2016

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) today applauded the granting of shore leave to the crew of the Hanjin Seattle on its arrival at the port of Seattle, USA.

The denial of shore leave to Hanjin crews was highlighted by a spontaneous action of dockers at the same port last month, and by ITF inspectors in the USA (see https://goo.gl/RDd549).

ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel commented: “This decision is an immense relief to the affected crew and we trust that it will apply to all Hanjin crews with bona fide visas who want to avail themselves of their basic right to step ashore.”

He continued: “We are all glad that this problem has been addressed and look forward to further discussions with the US authorities on welfare issues such as these; in particular on ensuring that international standards are met.”

Mr Heindel concluded: “Meanwhile the basic needs of Hanjin crews to receive pay, food and water continue to be addressed by a coalition of the Korean government, our member union the FKSU (Federation of Korean Seafarers’ Unions) and the Korean Shipowners’ Association. We are glad to be able to continue to report that Hanjin crews remain in good spirits and hopeful of the prospect of further employment.”

www.itfglobal.org

Afusat Eke is the maritime social worker employed by the Nigerian National Seafarers' Welfare Board to assist seafarers and their families affected by piracy and armed robbery. Her post is supported by a grant from Seafarers UK. She started work on 1 September 2016, and will be engaged in counselling, providing practical assistance, training and scoping the extent of the effect of piracy and armed robbery on Nigerian seafarers and their families.

Oceans Beyond Piracy estimated that 23 seafarers were killed in the Gulf of Guinea in attacks in 2015; most of these were Nigerian. Fishers have been particularly badly affected.

1/ What first got you interested in social work?
My mother often quoted a proverb in Yoruba which translated
means: "When I meet someone with a problem, I will go all the way with them to solve that problem". She brought me up to look for other people, and when a friend suggested I should try social work I took it up and found my place there.

2/ What was your first case as a social worker?
Working with a young man who was addicted to heroin, and with his mother. He had sold almost all their possessions to fund his habit, and had resorted to begging but not to stealing. My first assignment was to get his details, and then to work with him and his mother in family therapy sessions. He came off drugs at that stage. Nigeria has a lot of drug users now, whereas it used to be a transit country for drugs, it is now a consuming country.

3/ What attracted you to work with seafarers?
I saw the advertisement and visited the websites of ISWAN and MPHRP which interested me a lot. I had seen the film 'Captain Phillips' and so had some idea about the existence of piracy and seafarers. Dealing with cases of trauma has provided some of the most interesting and worthwhile work in my career, and so the idea of being able to make a difference to seafarers in the follow-up of attacks made sense to me. Finally, my husband encouraged me to apply.

4/ How do you manage to fit in family commitments around your work?
I am a wife and mother of three children, and thankfully can count on a very supportive family network - my husband, my sister who lives nearby and my mother. Social work involves working when people are available, and this is often in the evenings, so we are all used to helping each other to allow us time to work while still bringing up a family.

5/ What are you expecting to find in Nigerian seafarers affected by piracy?
For both the seafarers and their families, I will be looking for signs of PTSD, depression, being withdrawn, suffering panic attacks. For families of hostages, there will be the fear of the unknown, and for the released hostages both the time that they have been held captive, and the treatment which they will have received.

AMIT

Amit * contacted SeafarerHelp to say that six months prior, the vessel which his brother was working on had sunk. The crew had been rescued by the local Port Authority and their P&I club had placed them in a hotel. The ship owner showed no sign of helping to repatriate the seafarers. It was then discovered that the ship had been carrying illegal weapons and the crew were put in prison.

Amit was very worried about his brother. The crew and their family had been in touch with their embassy, who had suggested the seafarers would be released soon, however they were becoming increasingly distressed as nothing had happened for six months.

A SeafarerHelp Officer contacted two ITF representatives in the country who established that the crew had been arrested because the ship had been carrying arms. The ITF sent a letter to the judge on the case, who had attempted to summon the ship owner. The seafarers were later released and told they would be repatriated because the tribunal had rejected the theory of illegal arms trafficking. The crew's release had been negotiated until the Magistrate could decide how to proceed in the ship owner’s absence. The seafarers stayed in their embassy’s guest house instead of prison, which was a much safer environment.  They were repatriated soon after, and Amit and his brother were finally reunited.

FINN

Finn* contacted SeafarerHelp concerning his wife, Laila*, who was travelling with him on board. The ship had docked in Russia, and Laila had been issued a fine of USD 51 for not possessing a Russian visa. The seafarers sailing on the ship were all in possession of a seamen’s book and so did not need visas. The ship had docked in Russia for less than 24 hours and Laila had not gone ashore at all.

Finn contacted us as he was concerned that as the crew would be returning to Russia multiple times, his wife would receive increasingly large fines on each visit. He was even more concerned about the possibility that Laila could be imprisoned. He had been informed that returning to Russia for a third time without a visa could result in imprisonment or being barred from the country.

Our Russian speakers contacted the Russian visa application helpline asking whether Laila would be exempt under this specific set of circumstances. They confirmed that the seafarer’s wife required a multiple entry tourist visa. The SeafarerHelp team managed to set the seafarer’s mind at rest and to advise him on the course of action to take. Laila disembarked in a port in Europe and applied for the visa there. She later returned to the ship with the necessary paperwork which meant that she and her husband could continue to sail together without worry.

AMBROSE

Ambrose* contacted us when on the fourth day of hunger strike. He hadn’t been paid and was refusing food until he received his wages.

A SeafarerHelp Officer spoke to Ambrose in his native language and ascertained the detail of the situation. He had completed his contract some months ago, but had refused to leave the ship until his wages were paid; he had been assigned a cabin in the base of the ship and was told to have no contact with the rest of the crew.

The SeafarerHelp team contacted the ITF inspector in his next port and encouraged Ambrose to return home and follow up the case from there with the local ITF inspector, stressing that continuing the strike would be dangerous for his health. The SeafarerHelp team continued to facilitate contact between the ITF, Ambrose and his family, as he did not have the funds to make phone calls himself. The ITF received a letter saying Ambrose’s wages would be paid. Ambrose was worried that it was a ruse, so he contacted his brother who checked his bank account for the transaction. Upon finding that he had received some wages he ended his hunger strike and returned home.  He remained in contact with the SeafarerHelp team and the ITF until he received the rest of the money.

After he had returned home, Ambrose rang our helpline team.  He thanked us for all of our assistance and said he would not have made it through all this without our help.  Often seafarers find the emotional support to be the most vital part of our services. Our team is always here to offer both practical and emotional support to any seafarer in need, and we are happy to have supported Ambrose in this difficult time. 

*all names changed for privacy

If you are a seafarer in distress, or a family member needing support, contact our team at www.seafarerhelp.org

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A United Nations summit on refugees and migrants has heard a special tribute to the Merchant Navy's vital role and risks to seafarers in rescuing survivors during dangerous sea migrations.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) special advisor on maritime security and facilitation Chris Trelawny told a round table meeting at the UN summit, that: 'IMO member states recognise that using the search and rescue systems enshrined in the SOLAS and SAR conventions to respond to mass mixed migration was neither foreseen nor intended.

'Although governments and the merchant shipping industry would continue to carry out rescue operations, safe, legal, alternative pathways to migration must be developed, including safe, organised migration by sea if necessary.'

Mr Trelawny asked the meeting on 19 September 2016 to record 'the thanks of the IMO membership to the search and rescue authorities, navies and coastguards, as well as to the masters of the hundreds of merchant ships diverted from going about their lawful occasions to rescue mixed migrants, with attendant risks to the seafarers concerned.'

IMO films

IMO also highlighted three short films it has produced examining the issues on migration at sea, including insights into what it is like for seafarers to take survivors onboard. The videos explore the perspectives of the migrants, the seafarers who rescue them and the international response.

The IMO has a number of treaties with provisions relating to migration by sea. These include SOLAS chapter V on Safety of Navigation, which requires 'the master of a ship at sea able to provide assistance to persons that are in distress at sea; to do so regardless of the nationality or status of such persons or the circumstances in which they are found'.

Guidance on the legal framework for rescue at sea has been also been prepared by IMO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and UNHCR.

One film from the rescuer perspective points out however, that while the 'international law reinforces the age old tradition that seafarers will always try and rescue people from the sea,' this obligation is now 'nearing breaking point'. This is because, despite best intentions a 'modern merchant vessel is completely unsuited to carrying large numbers of survivors,' explains the film. 'For the captain finding somewhere to disembark his passengers can be as challenging a task as coping with them during their stay onboard.'

In 2014, nearly 900 merchant ships were diverted by Italian authorities to participate in rescue operations, and of those, 254 took migrants on board — saving the lives of more than 42,000 people.

The UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which refers to a pledge to facilitate 'orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.'

 

Original article: https://www.nautilusint.org/en/what-we-say/nautilus-news/un-summit-hears-imo-tribute-to-masters-in-migrant-rescues/

Since 2011, Oceans Beyond Piracy has convened Working Group meetings for maritime stakeholders and experts to share information and discuss challenges and opportunities regarding how to address maritime piracy in the Western Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Guinea. These meetings are always held under the Chatham House Rule in order to facilitate and encourage a frank and open exchange of views.
In anticipation of the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa, to be held in Lomé, Togo, on 15 October 2016, OBP convened a Working Group meeting in London to discuss the current state of maritime piracy off the east and west coasts of Africa. ISWAN / MPHRP were present at this discussion, and the attached document below provides a summary of the primary messages and observations discussed during the meeting.