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Maritime Response
 
Piracy and armed robbery is one of the foremost threats facing the international shipping community today, be it off Somalia, in the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea, the South China Sea or elsewhere.

Despite numerous diplomatic, military and other initiatives by many governments and governmental agencies., particularly in the Indian Ocean, and the protective measures and other actions adopted by shipowners, ship-managers and their representatives, ships are regularly attacked and seafarers put at risk as they go about their legitimate business in international waters.

While acknowledging the actions of governments, the United Nations and the International Maritime Organisation, the shipping industry has recognised that more needs to be done to support seafarers and their families. Nearly five thousand 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 more than one hundred thousand seafarers experience the anxiety while sailing in or towards piracy infected waters while their families share these worries, frequently with a feeling of helplessness.

Seafarers naturally play a pivotal role in any piracy incident and the appropriate preparations are integral to their well-being, as well as ultimately also their families, and to the overall outcome of the incident.

Recognising the above, partner organisations representing shipowners, ship-managers, manning agents, unions, insurers and welfare associations, together with intergovernmental organisations joined together to establish the Maritime Piracy - Humanitarian Response Programme.

The programme has been built around:
* a task group of multi-disciplined, international experts,
* extensive fact finding and the feedback gained from first-hand meetings and interviews with seafarers and families worldwide, including many with first hand experience of attacks and hijackings,
* advisory groups on industry practices and procedures, pre-deployment piracy training and the skills required of responders, and
* the advice and assistance of a project steering group.
In its first phase the programme is developing:
* "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,
* 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

Our shared concern for the well-being and welfare of seafarers and their families before, during and after a piracy or armed robbery attack underpins the work of the programme and the commitment of the partners.

Peter Swift
Programme Chair
September 2011