SCI Attends Dubai Counter-Piracy Conference

Jul 3, 2012
by the Rev. David M. Rider, President & Executive Director
By invitation of the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DP World, I represented the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) during a two-day conference of 700 government, maritime industry and humanitarian leaders designed to forge a regional response to Somali piracy via enhanced public-private partnerships. Conference attendees shared best practices to deter piracy and provide humanitarian support to hostage seafarers, while addressing piracy’s root causes in the failed state of Somalia.
I was honored to serve as a panelist discussing humanitarian responses for seafarers and their families caught up in piracy hostage situations. I shared SCI’s efforts to develop medical and psychological guidelines to assess and treat seafarers after piracy ordeals end. I noted the particular challenge of follow-up medical treatment when seafarers are repatriated to clinically underserved parts of the world—when symptoms might be delayed for weeks. I stressed the importance of promoting seafarer resilience and caution about presumed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We discussed the cross-cultural and ethnically sensitive dynamics of mental health care. Finally, we explored the dilemmas of seafarer medical confidentiality, while acknowledging the ship owner’s need to verify fitness for duty upon return to work.
I moderated a panel discussion that included Nareman Jawaid, daughter of a ship captain whose current captivity now extends over 20 months. Presently, the two longest ship detentions (the other is 29 months) unfortunately involve private owners who have either abandoned negotiation or lack insurance to fund a ransom. Ms. Jawaid—the only hostage family member at the conference—engaged the audience with stories of coping for months with silence by pirates, no response from the ship owner, changing ransom demands, and her need to go on with family life, waiting for the phone to ring.
While many conference attendees came from the Middle East and Africa, a strong, encouraging presence appeared from the United States’ diplomatic and military communities. The assembly publically thanked Doug B. Stevenson, Director of SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, for his leadership. The official conference briefing papers included one authored by Stevenson.
Within the public-private sector dynamic of large conferences, SCI plays a creative leadership role unfettered by bureaucratic drag or a government’s need for nuanced public representation. As a seafarer welfare institution, I could focus solely on representing the needs of seafarers, deepening ties with counterparts in (or within) groups like Maritime Piracy: a Humanitarian Response Programme and Oceans Beyond Piracy.
Along with these groups, SCI continues to focus industry discussion on seafarer needs. SCI psychologist Dr. Michael Garfinkle leads SCI’s effort to develop first responder and aftercare guidelines upon a ship’s release. We will release insights from Dr. Garfinkle’s clinical interviews with 154 seafarers—many directly impacted by piracy—this summer. SCI’s work does not conclude with the first round of results from this study, however. We carry on with work to ameliorate seafarer suffering, advocate within industry councils, and work to restore hope for great careers at sea.
For more conference analysis, read this article from Maritime Executive.
Watch a stirring video entitled “Piracy: The Human Cost” produced by DP World here.