THE world’s attention has been understandably focused in the last few days on the heroic rescue of the miners trapped underground in Chile. Their plight and that of their families struck a chord all around the globe and the efforts made to ensure they returned safely rightly applauded.
Meanwhile, in Somalia some 389 seafarers by the latest count remain captive in various locations and separated from their families, often for many months, following piracy attacks that continue to take place.
Rescuing them is a lot more complex than extracting miners from below ground and involves international, political, as well as physical efforts. But shipowners and others could still do more to prevent seafarers and ships being hijacked and detained by pirates in the first place.
As this newspaper reported yesterday, some shipping companies are failing to follow the best practice guidelines that have been widely disseminated by the International Maritime Organization and shipping industry organisations.
The Philippine government has taken the step of compiling a blacklist of companies failing to do so, indicating that Filipino seafarers should not join ships that do not follow these guidelines. About 100 of the captive seafarers are Filipinos.
While keen to promote employment opportunities, the Philippine government is fully justified in ensuring that its nationals are treated properly. That includes employers taking reasonable measures to protect seafarers against pirate attacks. Following internationally recognised guidelines is surely an essential part of that responsibility.
As Lloyd’s List also reported yesterday, the cost of piracy attacks is substantial and the cost to owners of insuring against those costs is escalating. So it is clearly in their interests to ensure their vessels are protected as far as is reasonably possible.
Whether governments are doing enough is another issue, but the risks are so widely known that there is no longer any excuse for shipowners not following the guidelines.
There is no immediate prospect of any dramatic rescue attempts of captured seafarers, but if other governments follow the lead taken by the Philippines and put pressure on all owners to protect their crews, the chances of preventing successful attacks would be increased.