Fed up being mere spectators and sidelined by governments and the trade at large the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) one of the leading trade unions has finally decided on taking the initiative to protect its members from piracy. The Union has threatened that if the situation does not improve then it is soon going to announce a date after which seafarers from labor supplying countries will refrain from sailing to the Gulf of Aden and the Somalia coast.
It appears to be the 22,000 tonnes Panama flagship m.v. “Al Khaliq” which was hijacked by the Somalia pirates in November last that turned out to be the last straw for the Union’s patience. There were 24 Indians and 2 Burmese seafarers on board “Al Khaliq”. The release of the ship, after three months, reduced to 11 the number of vessels still held by Somali pirates, together with more than 200 crew members of different nationalities.
The Union has expressed disgust having to listen to the baloney being dished out by various organizations including the International Maritime Organization, the Indian government and others. They have thrown down the gauntlet to those flag states and ship owners who have done nothing to fight Somali piracy.
Abdulgani Y. Serang, General Secretary-cum-Treasurer, stated, “The Union is spearheading and co-coordinating an international agitation with the support of unions from India, Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ukranian, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and other nationality seafarers from labor supplying countries. Discussions with the unions are already on. If the situation does not improve then NUSI is soon going to announce a date after which seafarers from labor supplying countries are not going to sail to the Gulf of Aden off the Somalia coast.”
Shipping circles feel that this will surely hamper worldwide trade. Many seafarers feel that this is the only language which the governments worldwide understand. “They have to come out of their callous approach and have effective mechanism against piracy in the Gulf of Aden off the Somalian coast,” they say. “Why should seafarers be made sitting ducks and left to the mercy of the pirates?”
In November last year the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) had bluntly told the flag states and the ship owners that it was time to act - before matters get out of hand and becomes impossible for seafarers to pass through the ever-widening pirate-infested area. The ITF had contended that ships should not transit the affected area at all, except in extraordinary circumstances.