Williams at WISTA

In recognition of the International Maritime Organization’s “Year of Piracy”, WISTA USA hosted world renowned piracy negotiator, Suzanne Williams QPM, as their keynote speaker at its sixth annual WISTA USA luncheon on Monday, kicking off the Connecticut Maritime Association’s Shipping 2011 conference.

The conference was attended by nearly 250 industry professionals and maritime cadets.

Ms. Williams described first hand experiences in her dealings with pirate negotiations, and offered suggestions for combating the scourge.  “First and foremost, our governments and the population at large need to better understand what a significant risk is posed by these pirates to our seafarers and supply chains,” stated Ms. Williams.  “Only through awareness can we generate action to combat this horrendous, and spreading, situation.”

An audience of politicians and shipowners agreed with Ms. Williams that the problem needed to be addressed.  “This is a very serious concern, costing lives and tens of billions of dollars for the maritime industry,” stated U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Subcommittee of U.S. Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, who attended the Stamford event.  “I’m very disappointed that Congress isn’t addressing this issue.”  Added Fred Negris, Operations Manager for BLT Chembulk, “Piracy is expensive; there’s an industry estimate that piracy costs $12 billion a year. We spend $20,000 to $40,000 to protect each of our ships and our crews”.

Ms. Williams noted that crews were held an average of 155 days in 2010. She also said reports of torture and the use of captives as human shields are on the rise as pirates go to extremes to extract ransom from shipping companies.  “We should work towards a situation where the paying of ransoms by ship owners is not the only solution for the release of their crew and vessels. If we can diffuse this practice we will be closer to realizing gains in this war against piracy “.
Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos sent WISTA USA President Jeanne Grasso a letter of commendation for raising the issue of piracy at the organization’s annual event. “As you know, the International Maritime Organization has chosen as its World Maritime Day theme for 2011, “Piracy: orchestrating the response”, the over-all aim of which is to redouble our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, to generate a broader, global response to eradicate it…I wish to express my gratitude to WISTA for its support and willingness to join our campaign.”

WISTA is an international organization for women in management positions involved in the maritime transportation business and related trades worldwide. WISTA is a major player in attracting more women to the industry and in supporting women in management positions.  WISTA USA has seven chapters around the United States with 257 members from 20 states.  For more information about WISTA go to www.wista.net .

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