This Opinion Piece written by our Chair of Trustees Captain Esteban Pacha, was published on Lloyd's List on July 24th 2019.
Seafarers should not be used as ‘pawns’ in geopolitical conflicts as seen in recent incidents including the seizure of British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, the newly-appointed Chair of a global maritime charity has said.
Captain Esteban Pacha, Chair of Trustees of seafarers’ charity Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) said these incidents have a severe impact upon seafarers’ wellbeing and may lead to a violation of their human rights.
Captain Pacha, a former merchant ship captain, added, “As an ex seafarer I can feel the shock and stress, the concern and even the fear that all crew members on board Stena Impero are experiencing – with restricted or no access to communications and without really knowing the extent and consequences of their detention by military forces”.
“When the international community has adopted guidance and measures to protect shipping and seafarers from piracy attacks, international shipping appears now exposed to military actions and seafarers retained as hostages in conflicts that are unrelated to their duties and daily professional activity at sea,” he said.
Those seafarers were just going about their jobs, making their passage to the ship’s next port of call as part of their daily work and dedication carrying and distributing goods worldwide, Captain Pacha said.
“We should assume that the crew on board is united, calm and under the guidance of the ship's command, and able to cope with the situation with minimal physical and psychological impact,” he said.
Stella Maris knows the reality that such incidents can have on seafarers’ wellbeing and mental health, as well as the huge pressures, strains and anxieties their families are facing at home.
In the ports of Milford Haven, Immingham and Fawley in Great Britain, Stella Maris port chaplains and ship visitors visited 33 ships owned by Stena (the owners of Stena Impero) last year and hence are familiar with crews of those vessels.
It is also important to remember the crew of the Mesdar, another tanker which was boarded by armed personnel on July 19 and managed by a company which Stella Maris has supported and worked with in the past.
These incidents affect not just the one vessel but the whole fleet, which is why Stella Maris immediately offered its hand of friendship and support to the companies involved, to let them know we are thinking of them and stand ready to assist wherever needed.
As the largest seafarers’ charity providing welfare support to seafarers in over 330 ports around the world as well as supporting seafarers’ families, Stella Maris stands ready to support crews and their families affected by this and similar incidents.
Fr Bruno Ciceri, Stella Maris International Director based in Rome, has called to ensure that the dignity and rights of seafarers are always protected, and extended prayers for the seafarers affected by these incidents.
He also conveyed his appreciation and encouragement to seafarers and their families worldwide.
As Stella Maris approaches its Centenary next year in 2020, Captain Pacha says that the Charity will continue its focus on building up its global ship visiting network by its port chaplains and ship visitors to support the practical and pastoral needs of seafarers.
The Centenary celebrations will kick off with the World Congress in Glasgow, the birth place of Stella Maris, in October 2020.
~ Captain Esteban Pacha is Chair of Trustees of Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) in Great Britain.