MUMBAI, April 27: Indian maritime unions and shipping organisations warned on Wednesday that piracy could prompt a withdrawal of labour from countries providing crews if nothing is done to tackle the problem.

“There is a strong possibility that a collective international boycott by the seafarers coming from the labour-supplying countries like the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Russia, Bangladesh, etc. is round the corner,” they said.

“Shipowners and seafarers have been left to fend for themselves without any worldwide government support,” the heads of the National Union of Seafarers of India, Maritime Union of India and Indian National Shipowners Association said.

The warning, in a joint letter to India's shipping regulator also sent to media organisations, was signed by the heads of six other representative bodies of shipping companies and ship owners.

It followed a protest march in Mumbai involving about 200 sailors against a spate of armed hijackings involving Indian crew.

More than 500 Indian sailors on over 20 ships are currently being held, including seven crew members on a bitumen-asphalt tanker, the MT Asphalt venture, who are still being held captive despite a ransom being paid.

The letter said the unions were “very deeply concerned” about a rise in attacks on merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden region and now across the Indian Ocean, as pirates seek to evade the clutches of an international naval force.

The unions called on the government in New Delhi to step up its efforts to combat piracy by lobbying at the United Nations.—AFP