‘Deployment ban to Gulf of Aden risky, ridiculous’

04/20/2009 | 12:48 PM

TROUBLED WATERS. French commandos on Wednesday intercept a small vessel suspected of Somali carrying pirates. AP

MANILA, Philippines – A Manila-based seafarers’ group found it impossible for the Philippines to implement a deployment ban of Filipino sailors to the Gulf of Aden and instead called the government’s recent action to curb high-seas kidnappings ‘ridiculous.’

The United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) strongly opposed the deployment ban Malacañang ordered after the number of Filipino sailors held captive by pirates in Somalia rose to more than 100, saying that ship owners would face a logistical nightmare once the ban is imposed.

In a news release posted in the Office of the Press Secretary’s website on Saturday that the Labor department issued a ban “on commercial ships “against the travel to the Gulf of Aden or within 200 nautical miles or 300 kilometers from Somalia.”

But UFS president Nelson Ramirez stressed that the deployment ban would put at risk the jobs of thousands of Filipino seafarers since almost 40 percent of merchant vessels pass through the Gulf of Aden, an important waterway for international trade.

“If the proposal is pushed through, that would mean lost opportunities for many Filipino seafarers,“ Ramirez told GMANews.TV in an E-mail.

Ramirez also opposes the plan to let Filipino seafarers disembark at the nearest port before passing through the Gulf of Aden and let them on board again once the vessel safely passed through the “danger zone.”

“No shipowner in his right mind, would even think of disembarking Filipino seafarers before his commercial vessel enters the Gulf of Aden…simply put, it is a ridiculous proposal,” he added.

Ramirez believes that the ban is nothing more than an offshoot to the the daring but successful rescue operations made by US Navy Seals to rescue American skipper Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates on April 12. [See: Kidnapped US captain freed; snipers kill 3 Somali pirates]

“Just to prove that they’ve done something they would impose the ban. [Well], their solution is not a solution [but] creates chaos and confusion,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez explained that except for UN-sanctioned vessels that usually bring in food and relief goods to the lawless African state of Somalia, there are also no commercial vessels going into or out of that country.

“So the ban cannot be imposed technically,” he said.

“In addition, the Somali pirates are not just operating near the coastal waters off Somalia or Gulf of Aden per se but actually in the waters forming the Horn of Africa, which is about one million square miles,” Ramirez said.



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