IMO Secretary-General spotlights seafarer safety amidst ongoing Red Sea attacks and resurging piracy


International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez has underscored the plight of seafarers on the frontlines of maritime security threats, in light of ongoing attacks on shipping in the Red Sea as well as rising cases of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Opening the 108th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 108), which is meeting in London from 15 to 24 May 2024 to discuss maritime security and safety issues, he stated: “The safety and well-being of seafarers remain of utmost importance, especially considering the ongoing challenges highlighted by recent distressing events in the Red Sea and off the coast of Somalia.
“Seafarers affected by these incidents must not be forgotten and it is incumbent upon us to pursue every available avenue to secure their safe return to their loved ones and their livelihoods.”

He reiterated his call for the immediate release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew, who remain hijacked since November 2023.

The Committee, which deals with all matters related to maritime safety and maritime security under the scope of IMO, will discuss possible actions to address the critical situation facing shipping in the Red Sea. The issue continues to impact the global economy and freedom of navigation, while endangering the marine environment. It has already cost the lives of innocent seafarers.

The Committee will also discuss growing cases of piracy and armed robbery against ships, which have increased by approximately 15% between 2022 (131 incidents) and 2023 (150 incidents).
“I am deeply concerned over the first increase in the number of incidents for several years, and worry that growing global instability is a contributory factor… I urge this Committee and all stakeholders to take every action possible to address this alarming trend,” Mr. Dominguez stated.

He commended regional and international efforts to implement the Djibouti and Yaoundé Codes of Conduct. These regional initiatives bring together countries in the region to cooperate on joint actions to address maritime security issues, particularly piracy and armed robbery. These include capacity-building initiatives for national authorities, coordinating activities, sharing experiences and expertise and developing relevant regional strategies.

Other key issues on the agenda for MSC 108 include developing a code to regulate Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), developing a safety regulatory framework to support the reduction of GHG emissions from ships using new technologies and alternative fuels, and addressing violence and harassment in the maritime sector.

The meeting will conclude on 24 May 2024.