Speaking Out

Maritime leaders are set to speak out on the perils, pitfalls, pros and cons of armed security at the upcoming WISTA-UK Annual Debate.

With an upsurge in piracy becoming the number one issue of concern for the maritime world, WISTA-UK (part of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association) has chosen a controversial aspect of this huge problem as the centrepiece for its annual ‘hot topic’ Debate. The event, in London on March 16 2011, will consider the key dilemma spelled out in the title Piracy: Should Vessels Have Armed Guards on Board?

Rising violence against hostages and deadly shoot-outs with naval forces have underlined the call by WISTA and many other shipping organisations for urgent but constructive solutions to the problem. WISTA has tirelessly campaigned for greater recognition of the plight of seafarers and for the need to keep the industry as safe as possible for its employees and potential recruits.

WISTA-UK stages a major debate every March, to coincide with the celebration of International Women’s Day. WISTA is delighted that Jim Davis, chairman of the International Maritime Industries Forum, and a WISTA-UK Ambassador, will join introduce this year’s Debate as Master of Ceremonies, and Paul Gunton, managing editor at Lloyd’s Register Fairplay, will act as moderator.

Panellists will be Peter Hinchliffe, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping; Nick Platt , vice-president of Gard P&I Club (UK); Peter Cook of SAMI, The Security Association for the Maritime Industry; Leslie-Anne Duvic-Paoli of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security; Maria Dixon of ISM Shipping Solutions, who is president of WISTA-UK; and Christine Kershaw of MC Kershaw & Co.

This will be an opportunity for all WISTA-UK members, supporters and other executives and specialists in the maritime business to join in some hard talking about the advantages and risks of taking conflict to a new level. In an address to WISTA-UK on March 1, Dr Martin Stopford of Clarkson Research pointed out that throughout history, piracy has been the norm rather than the exception. A record 1,181 hostages were taken in 2010, most of them off Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

It looks highly unlikely that the constant attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean will be stemmed peacefully in the near future. Ship owners and their insurers have a difficult task in deciding what measures should be taken to ensure the safety of crew, vessel and cargo on voyages through pirate infested waters. Some flag states are reluctant to have armed personnel on board; others may provide an armed escort vessel; others may have armed guards on board, but this poses the question of what are the correct circumstances for them to engage pirates. What other protective measures can be taken?

Around 1,000 pirates are reckoned to be controlled from Somalia, capable of attacking large and small ships over a wide range of sea, such that the naval forces despatched by governments are having limited impact.

As places will be limited for this popular event, attendees are invited to register now by emailing wista.uk.events@gmail.com

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