Despite the flurry of news coverage during the 2009 Maersk Alabama incident, many international traders still fail to grasp the dangers that confront vessel crews in many parts of the world. Crew members captured by Somali and other pirates have suffered physical and mental abuse, including torture, deprivation, beatings, death threats, and death itself, according to the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), a new organization whose mission is to assist crew members who have been or may be subject to pirate attacks.
More than 4,000 mariners are believed to have come under attack in recent years. As of late September, there were a reported 15 vessels with 277 crew members held hostage on board and another 19 being held prisoner on land.
Those terrifying experiences can affect mariners and their families for years to come. That's why London-based MPHRP is now developing guidelines and training modules for use by shipping companies, manning agents, and welfare associations to support seafarers and their families before, during, and after a crisis. The group also aims to put together an international network of trained first responders and a network of professional aftercare providers, as well as launch a 24-hour international seafarers' telephone helpline.
MPHRP is funded by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) Seafarers' Trust charity and The TK Foundation, and is chaired by Peter Swift, former managing director of the shipping industry group Intertanko. The organization's members include companies and associations representing the entire shipping industry.
For more information about the dangers ships' crews face and how the industry plans to help, go to www.mphrp.org.