We recently did our bit to support the Save Our Seafarers campaign by visiting the SOS website and sending off the online letter of appeal on piracy to UK Prime Minister David Cameron. We wanted to dispatch the template letter to other world leaders but we held ourselves back. Surely, we thought, there are ways to get the politicians to act other than e-mailing petitions, which is a form of spamming. The paddle-for-125-miles campaign of British maritime executive James Tweed is one. Here are a few others:
Live Aid-style pop concert – Organised by activist-musicians Bob Geldof and James ‘Midge’ Ure, Live Aid was held in July 1985 in London and Philadelphia to raise funds for the relief of the Ethiopian famine with simultaneous concerts held in other countries. An estimated 2 billion people on the planet watched the live satellite broadcast of the event.
An anti-piracy single – Music can inspire millions as demonstrated by the single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas? / Feed The World’ written by Messrs Gedolf and Ure and originally recorded by Band Aid. The song was recorded in November 1984 by leading pop stars of the UK and Ireland, eventually becoming a best-selling record (more than 3 million copies sold in the UK alone) and raising in excess of £8 million worldwide.
Action-drama film on piracy – There’s no dearth of documentary films and YouTube video clips about Somali piracy. Why not a fictionalised account of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean? With their connections, BIMCO and the other shipping associations should be able to get Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the stars of the 1997 film Titanic, to play the lead roles. Imagine the impact on theatre-goers and politicians.
Water parade in New York Harbour – A flotilla of tugs, workboats, yachts, schooners etc sailing around the Harbor ahead of a cargo ship representing a pirate ‘mother ship’. This should send a strong message to the diplomats doing their paper chase at the United Nations headquarters. Simultaneous water parades can be held in other countries, all televised live via satellite.
Hunger strikes by the unions – It’s doubtful if the union chaps, let alone shipping executives, would be willing to forego with solid food for, say, three days to dramatise the piracy issue. But such a gesture will have more impact than the diet campaign of Simon Cockburn, the UK’s Permanent Representative to IMO, to shed 53 kilos over a 12-month period in support of a seafarers’ charity and the anti-piracy drive. Obesity is bad for the heart, so Mr Cockburn is actually doing himself a favour.
World-wide protest rallies – Led by the ITF and its affiliate unions, simultaneous demonstrations in key cities would help amplify the voice of the anti-piracy chorus, bringing the action to the streets. What good is ‘People Power’ – a catchphrase adopted by the SOS campaign organisers – if it’s limited to the media, the Internet and the corporate boardroom?
Letter-writing campaigns are fine. But given how Somali piracy continues to spread its tentacles and hold international shipping by the neck, more creative ways of spotlighting the issue and calling for action are in order. ~Barista Uno