The European Economic and Social Committee (EECS) presented on 24 January 2013 its opinion on maritime piracy and how to strengthen the EU response. The ETF made use of this occasion to publically express its support for many of the ideas formulated in the document while stressing that the EU should, under no circumstances, let its guard down if it is serious about combating piracy effectively.
At the hearing, the ETF was represented by ETF General Secretary, Eduardo Chagas, and ETF Political Secretary for Maritime Transport, Philippe Alfonso. In his statement, the latter praised the rapporteur, Dr Bredima, for her work and expressed ETF’s support on a number of ideas mentioned in the opinion. Among others, the ETF concurred with the EESC that, with piracy being a multifaceted problem, the EU was definitely well placed to develop a holistic action both ashore (including state-building and reconstruction) and at sea. In addition, ETF welcomed the EESC recommendations to sustain and strengthen even further the response from naval forces and encourage the use of legal action and prosecution of pirates. Philippe Alfonso also backed-up the EESC opposition to ban the payment of ransoms, on which the lives of hundreds of seafarers depend. “Most of the points made by Ms Bredima in her report are issues of shared concern for the European Social Partners ETF and ECSA, and piracy is definitely high in the agenda of our Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee”, he said.
“Action by governments and companies needs to be combined”
Some aspects of the problem, however, were insufficiently covered in the report, according to Philippe Alfonso. “The shipowners’ duty of care, the role of training and the need for adequate manning are equally important and should be taken into account if we want to be prepared in the event the worst happens,” he stated. He went on to say: “The combination of action by governments – and particularly Flag States’ governments – and companies would undoubtedly improve the effectiveness in the fight against piracy and the protection of the seafarers’ welfare.”
Allan Graveson, representing ETF affiliate Nautilus International and also present at the hearing, expressed the frustration of the industry: “When it comes to protecting trade and seafarers, all that Europe offers is talk.” He urged the European Commission to address the crime against humanity that piracy is.
Concluding the Hearing, Dr Bredima thanked all the parties involved in the debate – including the seafarers’ representatives – for having offered food for thought to the EESC and the other EU Institutions.