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The final tally: 930,604 signatures from all over. They came in 12 cardboard boxes and were handed over on 23rd September, World Maritime Day, to IMO Secretary General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos at the UN agency’s headquarters in London. It’s not clear what the IMO will do next with the End Piracy Now petition, an initiative of some 14 seafarers’ unions, shipping associations and allied industry groups. A more important question: what impact will the petition have on the whole Somali piracy problem?

The proponents had announced in May that the petition (originally referred to as an “e-petition” since it was basically an online campaign) would be presented to governments around the world on World Maritime Day. Whether this has been done – and how – isn’t clear. Probably the best thing that could happen, if diplomatic protocol would allow it, is for Mr Mitropoulos to deliver a special address before the UN General Assembly with the boxes of signatures in tow for effect. Surely, media publicity of the London handover, overwhelming though it has been, isn’t enough.

London petition handover, IMO Secretary General Mitropoulos in the foreground

It’s reassuring to note that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has been all ears to the clamor to end the Somali piracy. In response to a July letter signed by Mr Mitropolous and heads of international shipping and seafarers’ organisations, he said: “The United Nations, in partnership with the broad range of concerned international institutions and organizations, including the IMO, will spare no effort to address the challenges resulting from piracy.” The political pressure needs to be kept up.

The speeches delivered during the London handover suggested that this would be done over the coming months leading to World Maritime Day 201, which has as its theme “Piracy: orchestrating the response”. Well and good. The trouble is, the Somali pirates have long ago declared war on international shipping. The problem is here and now. It’s staring the world right in the eye. The time for talking is over. ~Barista Uno

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