Panama and the freed Iceberg 1 crew

Panama should be ashamed. The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) is now having to call on it to help the recently released crew of the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1 recover from their ordeal in the hands of Somali pirates. Panama should have been amongst the first to come to their succor. Its seeming lack of concern doesn’t speak well of the country. Is Panama only after the money to be made from operating the world’s largest ship register?

Says ITF seafarers’ section chairman Dave Heindel: ‘It is unfortunate that the flag state has not discharged its duty of care set out by the IMO to these seafarers during their captivity, even though they were serving on a vessel flying its flag. There is now an opportunity for it to contribute to their support and rehabilitation.’ For the record, the men of the Iceberg were helped home by the UNPOS and UNODC Hostage Support Programme with support from other parties. Amongst them: the Interpol, the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), the seafarers’ consulates (two countries sent aircraft to pick up their nationals) and the ITF.

The 25th May 2012 circular of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (‘Interim Guidance for Flag States on Measures to Prevent and Mitigate Somali-based Piracy” – MSC.1/Cir.1444) says in part: ‘A State’s counter-piracy policy should contain measures regarding the eventuality that a ship entitled to fly its flag is captured, and to ensure that, as far as possible, the humanitarian needs of the crew and families are addressed during the period of captivity and after release.’

Heeding the call to help rehabilitate the MV Iceberg 1 crew is a matter of duty for Panama. It’s also a matter of humanity and plain decency. The men were subjected by the Somali pirates to unspeakable torture, starvation and even mutilation. One hostage had his ears mutilated. Another, a Yemeni, was driven to suicide because he couldn’t take it. Still another, the Indian chief officer, is known to have been separated from the crew and tortured. He is still missing. For Panama, the flag state, to be deaf to the plea is to tarnish its image as a maritime nation and confirm the still widespread apathy toward piracy victims. ~Barista Uno

A FOOTNOTE: The Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1, a roll-on/roll-off vessel, was hijacked by Somali pirates on 29th March 2010. Twenty-two crew members were freed after a gun battle between Puntland forces and the pirates on 23rd December 2012: eight Yemenis, five Indians, four Ghanaians, two Pakistanis, two Sudanese and one Filipino. Some of the men have been reported to be suffering from mental problems.

5 Replies to “Panama and the freed Iceberg 1 crew”

  1. D. Peter Boucher, MN

    Talk about throwing stones in glasshouses! The Republic of Panama is the original “flag of inconvenience” and no experienced seafarer expects anything from them and that is just what we get. The Republic of the Philippines is in no position to make any criticism of Panama, just remember to correct your own nautical mess first and soonest, Do not follow the example of that other RP.

    Good Watch.

    • Barista Uno

      Excuse me, Peter, but the article is our own commentary on Panama and we do not represent the Republic of the Philippines as you have suggested. If you will bother to look back, we have been critical, sometimes harshly, of what you call the ‘nautical mess’ in the Philippines and the slow government action to address it.

      Thanks for sharing your views.

  2. D. Peter Boucher, MN

    Respectfully Barista Uno any post in your blog is considered an opinion of the Republic of the Philippines maritime industry that is after all what the blog is for – right?. That is the nature of publishing and because you are commenting on a national industry. It is well to remember that outside your country a different perspective is taken than necessarily that in the Philippines. Best regards and Good Watch.

    • Barista Uno

      We hate to have to say it again: the views expressed in this blog are our own and do not reflect those of the Republic or the county’s maritime industry. And we do respect the views of others. Why else would we publish comments that do not conform to our own?

      That said, let us consider this matter closed.

    • Reid Sprague

      Dear Peter,

      I’m an American seaman. If any time I had an opinion I hesitated to express it because the American merchant marine wasn’t lily-white in that regard, I’d have to keep my mouth shut most of the time.

      Some might say that would be an improvement! Point taken – but I don’t think it’s justified as an argument for me to stifle my honest opinion. I’m a working American seaman, but I don’t thereby bear ultimate responsibility for speaking for the American merchant marine. I can still only speak for myself, out of what I know by virtue of my own unique experience.

      Read back through the Marine Cafe blog’s posts, and you’ll see that Barista Uno has very clearly spoken for himself, as a well-informed industry observer – often from the point of view of one with particular knowledge of the Philippine scene. That doesn’t make him a spokesman for the Philippine merchant marine establishment. As he pointed out, he’s often criticized that establishment with the goal of improving it. There’s a very big difference!

      That non-political, unbiased attitude is precisely what makes his blog worth reading.

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