The Human Face of Marine Piracy: Consequences and Policy Options
29 February–2 March 2012
The three-day international working conference was held in Karachi , Pakistan , between 29 February and 2 March 2012. Its aim was to address the impact of marine piracy on seafarers, their families, their employers and their communities.The event was organized and hosted by the Fazaldad Human Rights Institute (FHRI), Islamabad, Pakistan in partnership with the Dalhousie Marine Piracy Project (DMPP), Halifax , Canada, and sponsored by the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, Washington, USA . All sessions were held at the National Centre for Maritime Policy Research at BahriaUniversity in Karachi.
The conference was planned and conducted as an output-oriented initiative intended to “develop credible counter-piracy policy options”. As the title indicated, the focus was not so much on the military, naval and enforcement aspect of marine piracy as on the human and socio-economic impacts; and identification of actions that stakeholders can take cooperatively to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from, marine piracy incidents. The organizers had defined the following criteria for assessing success:
Short Term: The conference concludes with a broad consensus on workable policy options.
Medium Term: The conference Proceedings and contribution to the DalhousieUniversity project's research serve as catalysts for practical policy development initiatives.
Long term: The conference proves to be the starting point for sustained, long term collaboration between participants and their respective networks of stakeholders.
Not only was the desired consensus achieved, but a number of immediate practical outcomes resulted from the sharing of ideas during formal discussion and informal networking. The following are of particular note. Others are known to be under discussion between various participants but not yet reportable.
Psycho-social Support: The conference noted a worldwide lack of psycho-social support to attacked and hijacked seafarers and their families, both preventive and reactive. The Institute of Professional Psychology at Bahria University , headed by Dr. Zainab F. Zadeh, has undertaken to work with shipping masters and the government ofPakistan to provide pre-and post- hijacking psychological support to Pakistani seafarers and their families. One of the conference participants, Captain Wasi Hassan, himself a hijack victim, will be invited to advise.
Insurance: Another widespread shortfall in support to seafarers is a lack of affordable hijack insurance for individual mariners. Ships and cargoes can be insured against the impact of hijack and ransom, but seafarers generally cannot. As a result of discussion at the conference, Alfalah Insurance Co. Ltd., represented at the conference by Executive Director Captain Azhar Ehtisham Ahmed, himself a former Master Mariner, has undertaken to develop a hijack insurance product for individual seafarers.
Negotiation and Ransom: The Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) inKarachi has had a long history of dealing with kidnap and ransom cases. That expertise was instrumental in the role played by its Chairman, Mr. Ahmed Chinoy, in the release of the MV Suez captives and was provided free of charge. Discussion during the conference often highlighted the importance of professional expertise in dealing with hostage and ransom negotiations. The CPLC will explore means of assisting others, such as underwriters and owners in future.
International Humanitarian Collaboration: All three of the foregoing initiatives are Pakistan-originated, however those concerned intend to encourage and facilitate similar programs elsewhere through international connections made at the conference.
Diplomatic and Political Outcomes
Pakistan — India Relations . This project had originated as an opportunity for bilateral cooperation on this issue of mutual interest, highlighted by the case of the MV Suez , which not only included both Indians and Pakistanis in its crew, but also was the backdrop for a naval incident at sea between warships of the two countries. The conference was expanded to a more international format to take advantage of the organizer's extensive network of contacts and the international nature of the problem. Nonetheless, the bilateral objective remained and was achieved by inclusion of two senior participants from India . This was not easy to achieve, given the current state of relations between the two countries, and was in itself an achievement.
National Support . The Pakistan Navy provided full protocol for receiving and seeing off visitors and the Chief of the Naval Staff personally opened the conference. Dinners for participants were hosted and funded by influential individuals. Mr Javed Jabbar, former Federal Minister of Information and of Science and Technology hosted participants in his home on the night before the conference. The first evening's dinner at the prestigious Sind Club was hosted by Justice Shaiq Usmani, who is not only a retired High Court Judge but also a Master Mariner and former naval officer. The closing dinner was hosted at the Karachi Boat Club by Mr. Iqbal Haider, a former Minister of Law and Justice and of Human Rights. These significant commitments of time and money by influential members of Pakistan 's establishment, as well as generous contributions from many other agencies, were a concrete validation of the value of this conference to Pakistan .
Pakistan — United States Relations . The generous support of the NESA Center sent a positive message at a time of strained Pakistan—US relations, and the active participation of both NESA Center representatives was very much welcomed by the hosts. Hopefully this will provide a useful springboard for further cooperation between the NESA Centre and Pakistan 's naval, civil maritime and human rights communities.
Collaboration: Both the presentations and networking provided a wealth of information exchange among researchers and practitioners. One of the Dalhousie Marine Piracy Project team conducted a number of formal research interviews during the conference and all three Dalhousie University participants laid foundations for continuing the research collaboration begun at the conference through that project.
Publication: All plenary sessions were recorded and Proceedings are now being compiled and edited for future reference and as a basis for further research.
The Next Generation: Students, as well as faculty from Bahria University were encouraged to attend plenary sessions and in many cases were actively employed in supporting the conference as “ aides de camp ” to participants, registration desk staff, audio-visual support, protocol assistants, and a highly visible role as program announcers. After the conference, many of those present, particularly from the psychology faculty, shared positive and enthusiastic comments on Facebook (“brilliant” in the words of one faculty member). Seeds of further educational dialogue on social issues appear to be germinating.