PHL Can Be Model for Maritime Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy - CMF Offficial

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MANILA, Philippines (PNA Feature) - Filipino seafarers, manning and shipping agencies and other stakeholders in the country's maritime industry, in tandem with Philippine government agencies, can be a model for best management practices (BMP) in international maritime shipping and thus contributing to the campaign against piracy and terrorism and to the safety and security of sea lanes.The American Chief of Staff of the Bahrain-based Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), Captain Chris S. Chambers, threw this challenge to participants of a forum Monday at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) during a brief visit arranged by Philippine ambassador to Manama, Corazon Yap-Bahjin.Chambers had also called on DFA Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, accompanied by the ambassador and Navy Captain Gaudencio Collado, Philippine Liaison Officer to the CMF and stationed in Manama.The Philippines is not yet a member of the CMF, but Chambers said it can further contribute to the anti-piracy and anti-terrorism campaign, particularly in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin, with a standardized training in ship crewing and insisting on the adoption by principals of ships and manning agencies of BMP while traversing pirate-infested waters.Chamber's visit acknowledges the fact that Filipino seafarers, comprising one-third of the world's seafarers or numbering some 300,000, are among the most exposed to risks in the shipping world.He emphasized that the Philippines is an island-nation that should have the experience of better managing the safety of its seafarers and of maritime travel.The DFA began noting the number of hostage-taking of Filipino crew on foreign-flagged vessels by mostly Somali pirates around January 2006.Since then and up to the latest count in January this year, 657 aboard 54 vessels have been victimized. At least one death, in 2009, among the hostages was revealed by the DFA.According to Collado, 11 hijacked vessels with 119 Filipinos plus other foreigners aboard then, and waylaid in the waters off Somalia, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden between March 2009 up to the present, are still captives of pirates who have gotten braver with each successful piracy."There is a need to standardizing the training of seafarers. Also, the government can ensure that the manning agencies are aware of BMP as a pre-emptive measure to repel pirate attacks," Chambers said.Foreign-flagged vessels on which Filipinos are crew members "must be responsible for management practices." Panama and the Marshall Islands are among the foreign-flagged vessels with Filipino crew as the majority.While citing the valuable participation of the Philippines in the Contact Group for Piracy, he said its joining the CMF, whose officers are mostly from major navy countries, would give it access to data and information relevant to the Philippine Navy (PN). Also, the CMF could gain from the PN's perspective of security and safety issues in seafaring.More broadly, Chambers said, erstwhile Filipino hostages could speak of their experience and ordeal while in the hands of their captors, their information useful in anti-piracy strategies of the CMF.This is how the Philippines could contribute for now, Chambers said, absent its present ability to contribute naval vessels and personnel.The CMF needs information on the financial trail of pirates and their cohorts, stressed Chambers. …