Piracy and armed robbery are one of the foremost threats facing the maritime industry today, be it off Somalia, in the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea, the South China Sea or elsewhere.
The international community have been successful in driving down rates of capture of ships and seafarers in the Indian Ocean, and piracy rates are down to levels seen in the 1990s. But there is continued pirate activity, notably off the coast of West Africa and in South East Asia. Some of this is very violent, and a worrying trend is the increasing number of seafarers being taken off ships to be held for ransom ashore.
Seafarers have been hijacked and held hostage, and there are many cases of brutal treatment, abuse and torture. Hostages have been murdered or used as human shields. Many other seafarers, even though the ship may not have been hijacked, have been under armed attack and may have also have been subject to a harrowing time locked in a citadel until released. For seafarers who are not attacked, the additional strain of extra watches and precautions to be taken in high risk areas also takes a toll.
While acknowledging the actions of governments, the United Nations and the International Maritime Organisation, in 2011 the shipping industry recognised that more needed to be done to support seafarers and their families. Nearly 5,000 seafarers have been hijacked in recent years and detained for months in frequently appalling conditions, while thousands of others have been the victims of a pirate attack. Every day of the year seafarers experience sailing in or towards high risk areas for piracy while their families share these worries, frequently with a feeling of helplessness.
Given these circumstances, a pan-industry alliance of ship owners, unions, managers, manning agents, insurers and welfare associations (maritime, labour, faith and secular) came together in 2011 to establish the "Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme" (MPHRP).
Merger with ISWAN
In August 2015, MPHRP became a programme within the UK registered charity ISWAN (International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network), which had already provided secretariat services to the programme as well as running the helpline associated with MPHRP.
What MPHRP does
The objectives of this programme address the three phases of "pre-, during and post incident", with the aim of implementing a model of assisting seafarers and their families with the humanitarian aspects of a traumatic incident caused by a piracy attack, armed robbery or being taken hostage.
Services provided by MPHRP
- "Good practice" guides for use by shipping companies, manning agents and welfare associations to support both seafarers and seafarers' families through the three phases of a piracy incident from pre-departure, during the crisis and post release/post incident. The latest guide was released 7th June 2016 and can be downloaded below
- Associated training modules.
- An international network of trained first-responders with appropriate skills within Partner and associated organisations.
- Access to a network of professional aftercare.
- A 24 hour seafarer's international telephone helpline.
Executive Director, ISWAN: Roger Harris
MPHRP Regional Director, South Asia: Chirag Bahri
MPHRP Programme Administrator, Philippines: Jun Pablo
Chairman: Andy Winbow
Helpline Team Manager: Chester Quintal
A free helpline is provided by Seafarerhelp and is available for anyone affected by the piracy issue: 00800 7323 2737
To contact MPHRP via phone or text please use the following numbers, quoting MPHRP:
Direct Dial: +44 207 323 2737
Text: +44 7624 818405