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Saturday, July 13, 2024

4 Pinoys on board as Iran seizes ship

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The Department of Migrant Workers on Sunday confirmed that four Filipino seafarers were on board the Portuguese container ship MSC Aries, which was seized by Iranian authorities near the Strait of Hormuz.

“The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) confirms the seizure by Iranian authorities of the containership MSC Aries, with four Filipino seafarers on board,” the DMW said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned on Sunday against any “reckless” Israeli retaliation to Tehran’s unprecedented missile and drone attack, as world leaders urged restraint.

Iran launched its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory, marking a major escalation of the long-running covert war between the regional foes and sparking fears of a broader conflict, as fighting between Israel and Hamas militants rages on in the Gaza Strip (see more stories in World page – Editors).

The DMW said it has received instruction from President Marcos to keep in touch with the families of the four Filipino seamen and to assure them of the government’s efforts to bring them home.

“We are in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the licensed manning agency (LMA), ship manager and operator, to ensure the safety and well-being, as well as work on the release of our dear seafarers,” the statement read.

The container vessel was headed to India from the United Arab Emirates early Saturday, Apr. 13, when it was reportedly seized by Iranian troops over alleged links with Israel.

The vessel had 25 crewmen, four of them Filipinos. The DMW said it already kept in touch with the families of the four seafarers and had assured them of full government support and assistance.

Iran’s President Raisi said in a statement that “if the Zionist regime (Israel) or its supporters demonstrate reckless behaviour, they will receive a decisive and much stronger response.” Numerous countries condemned the attack, and the United Nations Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting later on Sunday over what it has called a “serious escalation”.

The attack also came as the latest attempt to reach a ceasefire in the war in Gaza appeared to falter, with Israel accusing the Palestinian militant group Hamas of rejecting a truce proposal.

Earlier, the DMW has sought to declare the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as “war-like” zones, a move that will allow Filipino seafarers to exercise their “right to refuse” sailing on vessels bound for areas classified as such.

The DMW and the Maritime Industry Tripartite Council of the Philippines recommended to the International Bargaining Forum the classification of the southern portion of the Red Sea and the entire Gulf of Aden as “war-like zones.”

“Our seafarers are not soldiers or military personnel and we cannot allow them to risk their safety and lives by operating in areas with conditions similar to a war situation,” DMW officer-in-charge Hans Leo Cacdac said.

“The DMW and MITC prioritizes the safety and rights of seafarers, who should be made fully aware of their assigned routes and the potential dangers involved. At the same time, they should be protected from discrimination or withheld compensation for exercising their right to refuse sailing,” he added.

The push came in the wake of continued missile and drone attacks launched by Houthi rebels sympathetic to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. At least two Filipino seafarers have been killed in similar incidents in the Gulf of Aden.

The IBF is the forum that brings together the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the international maritime employers that make up the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG).

Cacdac said the DMW will institute several mechanisms and processes within its regulatory ambit that shall allow Filipino seafarers to exercise their “right to refuse” sailing on vessels bound for areas classified as “war-like zones.”

Among others, shipping companies and licensed manning agencies shall be required to register as a “significant event” the passage of any of their ships to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden through the DMW electronic Overseas Welfare Monitoring System.

Failure to report such a significant event opens the shipping principal and manning agency to appropriate sanctions.

“The DMW shall open an electronic portal as well as dedicated hotlines through which our seafarers may inform the department that they are exercising their right to refuse sailing,” Cacdac said. With AFP

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