by the Rev. David M. Rider, President & Executive Director
At the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) 10th World Congress in Hamburg, Germany, SCI Director of the Center for Seafarers’ Rights Douglas B. Stevenson and I made a major plenary presentation debuting SCI’s revised Guidelines (Version 3.0) for the treatment of seafarers who have been held captive by pirates.
SCI originally undertook the study of seafarer medical and mental health treatment in response to an ICMA 2008 resolution calling for humanitarian response to the increasing number of hostage situations. SCI forged a partnership with Disaster Psychiatry Outreach (DPO) at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) and The New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute (NYPSI) to tackle the treatment dilemmas associated with international crews and their short-term and long-term medical needs after the unique stressors of being held hostage. Clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Garfinkle has led SCI’s treatment study, interviewing seafarers impacted by piracy and recommending best practice guidelines for their welfare. To date, Dr. Garfinkle and his clinical colleagues have conducted 100 confidential interviews via Skype, phone and personal interviews in Port Newark.
Version 3.0 of the Guidelines serves as a natural evolution of SCI’s recommendations, incorporating findings from SCI’s research and input from industry groups like INTERTANKO and the International Chamber of Shipping. SCI’s revised Guidelines place emphasis on balancing the seafarer’s right to medical privacy alongside the ship owner’s need to evaluate fitness for continuing duty when the seafarer returns to work. Also, Version 3.0 stresses the need both for immediate medical triage when crews are liberated and follow-up care once the seafarer returns home—occasionally to parts of the world that are underserved by medical and mental health resources. For centuries, seafarers have been guaranteed medical care for conditions occurring while in service to the ship, and post piracy treatment serves as a necessary 21st-century extension of this service.
SCI is honored to be part of this critical thought leadership as part of its advocacy commitment to seafarers. Already, the US Coast Guard has responded favorably to an advance copy. We now seek to circulate the Guidelines to ICMA partners, ship owners, insurers, port state authorities, unions and other stakeholders.
Concurrent with our clinical study, Doug Stevenson and I are conducting recorded interviews with seafarers wishing to share their experiences with piracy captivity. Through these individual witnesses, we hope to give seafarers their own voice amid the various debates on their care. This autumn, we will publish the videos on SCI’s website and use clips in our specialized presentations to the medical, legal and church communities.
To view the Guidelines 3.0, click here.