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Maritime industry calls on UN for assistance as attacks on vessels and deaths of seafarers increase

26 April 2024

A joint maritime industry open letter has been sent to United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres calling for assistance and increased protection for the safe transit of ships in warlike and high-risk areas, following the recent seizure of the MSC Aries.

16 industry associations from across shipping organisations and unions said the recent incident – where the vessel was seized by Iranian forces 50 nautical miles north-east of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates on Saturday 13 April 2024 – had once again highlighted the 'intolerable situation' where shipping has become a target.

'This is unacceptable. We have seen a worrying increase in the attacks on shipping. Shipping is not a target with no victims. Innocent seafarers have been killed; seafarers are being held hostage. This would be unacceptable on land, and it is unacceptable at sea. The world would be outraged if four airliners were seized and held hostage with innocent souls onboard.

The world would be outraged if four airliners were seized and held hostage with innocent souls onboard. Joint industry open letter to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, also signed by the International Transport Workers' Federation and the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations

'Regrettably, there does not seem to be the same response or concern for the four commercial vessels and their crews being held hostage. Seafarers kept the world fed and warm during the pandemic with vital medicine, food and fuel delivered, irrespective of politics. Seafarers and the maritime sector are neutral and must not be politicised. It is the moral duty to protect seafarers.'

The letter says that shipping is a resilient industry, but given the 'continually and evolving threat in the region', now was the time for 'an enhanced coordinated military presence, missions and patrols in the region, to protect our seafarers against any further possible aggression.'

The industry associations asked that all member states be formally reminded of their responsibilities under international law. 'And we ask that all efforts possible are brought to bear to release the seafarers and protect the safe transit of ships.'


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