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Thailand Ratifies Convention to Tackle Forced Labor   1 comment

Credit: EJF
Credit: EJF

BY MAREX 

Last week Thailand officially ratified the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention at the International Labour Organization summit in Geneva.

The ratification has been hailed as a crucial step forward, especially for the country’s fishing and seafood processing industries, which have in the past been notorious for labor rights violations and forced labor cases.

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), which has worked to expose incidences of forced labor in the Thai fishing industry since 2013, strongly applauds the ratification, and the progress the country has made. However, the organization says that Thailand must also commit to three other conventions concerning working conditions in the fishing industry, the right to organize and collective bargaining, the NGO stresses.

The Royal Thai Government had previously stated publicly that alongside the Forced Labour Convention it would ratify the Work in Fishing Convention this month. This has now been delayed. The government has also pledged to ratify two other conventions on collective bargaining and the right to organize for both national and migrant workers.

By ratifying all three key conventions, and ensuring that they are effectively enforced, Thailand would send a credible and powerful message to the international community that the country is firmly committed to eliminating human trafficking, forced labor and other forms of exploitation from its fishing industry, says Steve Trent, EJF Executive Director.

In extensive recent investigations carried out by EJF, workers reported brutal physical abuse at the hands of their employers, brokers or other crewmembers if they did not work hard enough. They reported being forced to work for periods of 24 hours or more, often in return for little or no money.

“Our investigations have shown workers suffering atrocious working and living conditions or having their court cases thrown out for lack of valid evidence of forced labor,” says Trent. “Thailand has now driven a transformation of its fisheries, ushering in extensive, much needed and highly valuable reforms. But if it is to succeed in securing legal, sustainable and ethical fisheries, it must see the entire process through by committing to eradicate labor abuses and illegal practices at every turn.

“As the first country in Asia to ratify this ground-breaking convention, Thailand is setting out its intention to be a leader in the region, it must now consolidate this and bring in the full suite of reforms necessary.”

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Posted June 12, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

UN-Chartered Vessel Attacked off Yemen   1 comment

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The VOS Theia carrying relief cargo (WFP Logistics Cluster)

BY MAREX 

On Sunday, an offshore supply vessel chartered by the U.N. World Food Programme was attacked off Hodeidah, Yemen, the latest in a series of reported rebel attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea.

A spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) told Reuters that the VOS Theia had recently completed a delivery of 80 tons of food and 55 tons of medical supplies to Hodeidah, and she was waiting at an anchorage about 30 nm off the coast of Yemen. At 1730 hours, unidentified personnel in a skiff approached the Theia and opened fire. They attempted to take control of the ship, but onboard security personnel repelled them in an exchange of gunfire. “Both the crew and the vessel are safe, with no injuries or obvious damage to the vessel,” the WFP spokesperson said in a statement.

While the attackers were not identified, previous strikes on merchant shipping off Yemen have been attributed to Houthi rebels, who claimed responsibility for the attack on the Saudi tanker Abqaiq in April. EUNAVFOR intelligence and security chief Maj. Tom Mobbs suggested that a second attack on the Ince Inebolu was likely carried out by Houthis in a case of mistaken identity, and would likely not be the last of its kind. Houthi forces denied involvement in the strike on the Inebolu.

The attack on the Theia came as Saudi-backed forces close in on the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah. Coalition forces are now only eight miles away, and a final push to take the port could come soon. UN envoy Martin Griffiths is said to be negotiating with Houthi leaders to see if they will give up Hodeidah without a fight in order to avoid disrupting vital supply lines for the civilian population.

Hodeidah handles the majority of cargo arriving in western Yemen, including food. Due in part to a rigorous Saudi inspection process for import cargo, the UN says, food shipments have trickled through since late 2017, and over eight million Yemenis are presently at risk of starvation. If Hodeidah were to close altogether due to active combat, it could result in famine, aid groups warn.

Posted June 12, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

Somali Pirates – Surviving a Pirate Attack   1 comment

Posted May 28, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

EU NAVFOR delivers piracy threat assessment at launch of the 2017 OBP report   1 comment

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Understanding piracy and armed robbery of vessels is essential in maintaining maritime security. In addition, quantifying the economic and human costs of piracy is important in comprehending the true impact of piracy and robbery at sea.

EU NAVFOR now lies at the centre of a complex network of organisations and partnerships who must work together to ensure piracy remains repressed off the Somali coast. At the 2017 OBP report launch held in London on 23rd May, EU NAVFOR personnel presented their assessment and military analysis of the piracy threat that exists off the Horn of Africa, but also outlined other threat areas that have emerged and emphasised the need for vigilance and adherence to industry agreed protection measures that can help protect seafarers.

Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, Senior fellow to the OBP organisation chaired the event and said, “Even though the focus today was on piracy around the world, it has become very apparent how inter-connected it is to land based violence and criminal activity”.

Donald “Larry” Sampler, President of One Earth Future organisation closed the event, saying: “I am always astounded how even in 2018, we generate so much international interest on the topic of piracy and how there is so much positive energy from the people involved here today in working out how we can all work together and keep it repressed”.

The 2017 OBP report looks at the effects of piracy and criminal activity across the world and highlights the economic and human cost to world trade. In summary, the report states that the annual cost of Somali-borne piracy shrank slightly last year from $1.7 to $1.4bn. The estimated naval costs fell from approximately $230 to $200M and some 1100 seafarers were in some way affected by maritime security events. The 2017 headlines and link to the full report is found here: http://oneearthfuture.org/press-releases/oef-releases-2017-state-of-maritime-piracy-report.

 

eunavfor.eu

Posted May 27, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

Report: Piracy Threat Continues off East and West Africa   1 comment

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Interdiction off Somalia (EUNAVFOR)

BY MAREX 

On Wednesday, Oceans Beyond Piracy released its review for 2017, and the numbers show that pirate attacks remain a serious threat off the Horn of Africa, the coast of Latin America and in the Gulf of Guinea.

Off the coast of East Africa, the number of pirate attacks in 2017 was double the number the year before. “Pirate activity in 2017 clearly demonstrates that pirate groups retain their ability to organize and implement attacks against ships transiting the region,” said Maisie Pigeon, the report’s lead author.

In addition, the high rate of piracy and maritime kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea continues unabated. “Kidnap-for-ransom continues to plague the region, which is a trend that has unfortunately continued from 2016,” said Pigeon. 100 seafarers were taken hostage, including 90 who were held for longer than one day and at least two who were killed. Fully 1,726 seafarers were affected by piracy in 97 incidents in the region, including 21 kidnappings and one hijacking for cargo theft.

The continued impact of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea comes despite millions in additional funding for maritime security and naval patrols. The rate of law enforcement response to attacks rose by 27 percent, but authorities arrived to prevent a theft or kidnapping in only one case out of 97 for the year.

The legal framework for deterring Gulf of Guinea piracy is also somewhat thin, OBP reported. The alleged pirates arrested for the MT Maximus attack in 2016 were charged in November, but Nigeria lacks a criminal law for piracy, and charges had to be limited to related offenses. OBP called for Nigeria’s legal frameworks to be strengthened to support deterrence and enforcement.

In Asia, the threat of piracy and maritime kidnapping receded in 2017 compared with the year before. 2016 saw 22 kidnapping cases, driven in large part by the activities of the Abu Sayyaf group off Sabah, Malaysia. An increased law enforcement presence helped drive down the incidence rate of piracy in the region by 23 percent, OBP said, and kidnappings fell to a total of just four incidents.

Maritime crime is on the rise in Latin America and in the Caribbean as well, OBP warned – particularly at anchorages off poverty-stricken Venezuela, and particularly for anchored yachts.  OBP recorded 71 attacks this year, primarily robberies, compared with just 27 last year. Over 850 seafarers were exposed to risk from these illegal boardings, and two lost their lives.

Posted May 25, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

Piracy: Human Rights and Wrongs   1 comment

piracy

BY MAREX 

Dr. Sofia Galani, Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol and a Non-Executive Board of Advisors member of Human Rights at Sea gave a short interview on piracy to the Navigate Response, a global crisis communications network specializing in the international shipping, port and offshore industries:

How have attitudes to human rights at sea changed over time regarding piracy?

Piracy and counter-piracy responses have had a tremendous impact on human rights both for those suspected of piracy and for seafarers. Maritime enforcement operations and the subsequent prosecutions and trials alerted the international community to the human rights abuses suspects of piracy might face.

Although it took more time for the human rights of seafarers attacked or kidnapped by pirates to attract attention, the human cost of piracy is now an important part of the human rights at sea debate. The hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing their countries on board unseaworthy boats and the increasing reports of slavery and abuses of seafarers and fishermen have also played a significant role in our current understanding of human rights at sea …It is high time that human rights at sea were effectively recognized and protected.

Regarding piracy, how are human rights affected between regions?

Different piracy models and bespoke counter-piracy mechanisms might affect human rights at sea differently in the various regions. The regional or international character of counter-piracy operations, for example, have a different impact on the human rights of piracy suspects. While the rights to life, liberty, fair trial and freedom from torture of all piracy suspects can be interfered with, Somalis have been at a more disadvantaged position. Somalis are often transferred to third states, where they have no ties, to be tried and prosecuted. They often have no contact with their families or face inconsistent punishments depending on domestic law.

The human rights of seafarers can be similarly impacted. In all regions prone to piracy, seafarers are exposed to mental and physical abuse by pirates. In Africa, where kidnap for ransom is more common, seafarers might also face prolonged captivity and other forms of ill treatment, whereas injuries and murders are more common in the South China Sea and the Caribbean, where pirates try to seize the vessel or steal valuable cargo.

What are your views on shipowners adopting protective measures, such as armed security?

During the upsurge of piracy in Somalia, the shipping industry was heavily criticized for failing to protect vessels against pirate attacks. However, over the years, shipowners/managers have invested significant amounts of money in vessel protection, including in armed security. Despite their controversial nature, armed security guards have significantly contributed to the protection of vessels against piracy. The high cost of these measures, however, has meant smaller shipping companies have not always been willing, or able, to continue investing in protective measures, leaving seafarers exposed to piracy threats.

Do the media act responsibly when reporting piracy incidents?

Media reporting is helpful, as it raises awareness of piracy and kidnapping. Nevertheless, a few incidents are covered and these are chosen mainly because of their economic or human cost. This sporadic coverage fails to provide a holistic and comprehensive picture of piracy. In addition, inaccurate reporting can further undermine our understanding of piracy and its root causes. The media often present pirates as criminals driven by their greed for money. However, the realities of piracy are much more complex. Only when we understand the root causes of piracy, we will be able to provide long-term solutions.

What are the future challenges with regards to human rights at sea?

Some of the most significant challenges in protecting human rights at sea include the lack of reporting and maritime enforcement. Reporting and investigating human rights abuses while at sea is challenging. As a result, human rights violations often go unreported and unpunished. In addition, while the International Law of the Sea provides a legal basis for stop and search and inspections of vessels for various criminal activities at sea, maritime enforcement operations for human rights abuses on board vessels are not permitted.

To address these gaps, flag states, coastal states and the shipping industry have to work together towards improving the human and labor standards on board vessels as well as making available reporting mechanisms and remedies for victims of human rights violations at sea.

Source: Navigate Response

Posted May 22, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

ReCAAP: Impending Pirate Attack off Sabah   1 comment

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Members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in an undated video still (file image)

BY MAREX 

Piracy reporting center ReCAAP has issued a warning for the waters off Lahad Datu, Malaysia, advising mariners of a heightened risk of attack.

In an unusual advance notice to shipping, ReCAAP relayed detailed intelligence about a specific band of suspected pirates who are believed to be making plans for a kidnapping attempt. According to ReCAAP, members of the Abu Sayyaf group – a terrorist organization with a history of maritime hijackings and kidnappings – are planning to get under way for a known high risk area off Sabah within the next 24 hours. The report suggests that the gang will be using a blue speedboat with three engines.

Illustration courtesy Asket / Twitter

The advisory recommends that mariners should exercise “extreme caution” if transiting off Lahad Datu.

Abu Sayyaf staged 17 successful attacks on vessels off Sabah between April 2016 and April 2017, but it has not been able to complete an attempt in twelve months, according to STRATFOR. A multinational maritime security effort has prevented the pirates from executing further hijackings, but that does not mean that the risk has disappeared, the security consultancy warns: Abu Sayyaf pirates continue to monitor shipping and pursue opportunities for kidnappings. In addition, the group is still holding some of the mariners it captured during its period of peak activity.

While the Armed Forces of the Philippines have made strides in their campaign to drive Abu Sayyaf out of the Sulu Archipelago, the group’s gangs still have a limited capacity for guerilla warfare. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has promised that “he will not stop running after the Abu Sayyaf” until the group “is wiped out,” according to spokesman Harry Roque.

Posted May 5, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS