Piracy Petition’s Final Tally Tops 1 Million

World Maritime Day Events Spotlight Importance of Seafarers

November 2010

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Demonstrating worldwide support for actions to immediately curtail and eventually eliminate piracy, maritime industry stakeholders on Sept. 23 – World Maritime Day – delivered nearly one million signatures to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) office in London.


The signatures were gathered through an online anti-piracy petition (which the SIU helped develop) designed to attract attention and spur action protecting mariners. Launched in the spring with a publicly stated goal of securing at least 500,000 signatures, the petition topped 930,000 names by Sept. 23. In the ensuing days, that figure increased and surpassed the one-million mark as more individuals joined the cause.


Numerous other World Maritime Day events took place around the globe. Among them was a Navy League luncheon hosted at the SIU hall in Oakland, Calif.


Nevertheless, the headline-grabber was the petition handover. IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulus ceremonially accepted boxes of signatures from International Transport Workers’ Federation General Secretary David Cockroft; National Union of Seafarers of India General Secretary Abdulgani Serang; International Shipping Federation President Spyros M. Polemis; representatives from the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO); the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo); the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO); the International Ship Managers’ Association (InterManager); the International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA); the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS); and mariners whose vessels were attacked by pirates.


SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, who also serves as chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section, stated, “An unprecedented coalition from all segments of the maritime industry around the globe made this campaign possible. We said all along that we don’t expect pirates to be afraid of a petition, but that wasn’t our intent. We are calling attention to an incredibly serious problem, and we’re demanding action on the part of governments around the world.”


He added, “It was heartening to see such a powerful response. I extend my most sincere thanks to everyone who signed and otherwise supported the petition.”


Mitropoulus said, “The weight of the almost one million signatures on this petition is both moving and awe-inspiring. We can see from these boxes – which, I understand, represent a fraction of the signatures received online – just how many people have taken the time to sign this petition. I personally hope that the strength of feeling expressed by people from across the shipping community – and the wider world – will help to sensitize both governments and the wider public to the harm being caused by modern-day piracy, as well as exert pressure on those who need to act.”


He continued, “For IMO, piracy is an issue of grave concern and we share the deep anxiety of seafarers, industry and the broader community with regard to this modern day scourge. I know I can speak for all 169 IMO member states and three associate members, not to mention the many, many organizations like the ITF and the main shipping organizations that contribute to our work, in stating that it is our strong collective wish to see it permanently eradicated.


“IMO, in cooperation with governments, with our sister organizations in the United Nations system, and with the shipping industry as a whole, has devoted much energy to addressing the problem at all levels, engaging as many stakeholders as possible…. Nevertheless, much remains to be done if the ultimate goal of consigning piracy to the realms of history is to be achieved.”


Mitropoulus announced that next year’s World Maritime Day theme will be “Piracy: orchestrating the response.” He said, “We have identified a number of objectives that IMO and the international maritime community could pursue in promoting the theme – objectives which are reflected in the demands of this petition. The first is to increase pressure at the political level to secure the immediate release of all hostages being held by pirates – seafarers, in the main.


“The main other objectives are improving guidance to the industry and promoting full compliance by ships with all recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures; promoting greater levels of support from navies; promoting anti-piracy coordination and cooperation between and among states, regions and organizations; building capacity in affected states to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and, equally importantly, providing care for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.”


A joint statement by the organizations represented at the petition presentation read in part, “Piracy is endangering the lives of thousands of seafarers a day, endangering the wellbeing of their families, and endangering world trade…. With political will the problem of piracy can be tackled, and the problems of Somalia lessened. Without it they will continue, and worsen, and more lives will be ruined and lost, more ships attacked, more food aid diverted…. Each of those signatures, collected in 185 countries, from the maritime world and beyond, is a vote for a realistic, coordinated response to piracy; for more resources, for more naval action, for proper prosecutions of the guilty and support for the innocent – both on board ships and on land in Somalia.”


Meanwhile, dozens of Seafarers and others attended the luncheon in Oakland, which took place Sept. 20. The Navy League’s Pacific Merchant Marine Council presented a plaque to Adrienne Yee, Bay Area development coordinator for the Seamen’s Church Institute. Additionally, Council President Phelps Hobart spoke in strong support of American mariners.

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In photo directly below, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos is in foreground as some of the signatures are presented in London. Bottom photos show a vessel displaying a banner.

Piracy Petition Handover


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