OBE: The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry presented by Queen Elizabeth II, rewarding and recognising British nationals, citizens of the Commonwealth realms, or anyone who has made a significant achievement for the United Kingdom.

This month we speak to Peter Hinchliffe, the Former Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), now representing MOAS.

The ICS membership is made up of national shipowners’ associations in Asia, Europe and the Americas, whose member shipping companies operate over 80% of the world’s merchant tonnage.

Before that, Peter served for more than 25 years with the British Royal Navy. 

Peter is a member of the Nautical Institute Executive Board, a board director of 90 North and QACE and an independent maritime advisor. He was presented with the IMO’s International Maritime Prize in 2019, a prize which is awarded annually by IMO to the individual or organization, judged to have made a significant contribution to the work and objectives of the Organization.

Peter will be the key note speaker at the IMRF’s G5 International Mass Rescue Conference in June 2022.

Could you tell us a bit about your career, and how you have come to be interested in/an expert in maritime SAR?

I am certainly not an expert in search and rescue (SAR)! 

However, after more than 25 years at sea in the Royal Navy, I have a healthy seafarer’s interest in search and rescue. 

After I left the Royal Navy, I joined the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and during my time there I was deeply engaged in the emerging problem of traffickers forcing migrants into unsuitable boats and attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

Every seafarer knows of the legal and moral obligation to rescue anybody in distress at sea and merchant ships started to become engaged in rescuing migrants whose boats had become overwhelmed by the sea and weather conditions or simply because they were overloaded. 

Then we had to fight a political battle on behalf of merchant shipping to ensure that once a ship had conducted a rescue that the coastal State expediently allocated a berth to disembark the rescued souls. 

The legal obligation on ships to rescue was respected but the political will for nation states to fulfil their legal obligations was often woefully lacking. 

We still had strong memories of MV Tampa in 2001 – when Captain Arne Rinnan rescued 438 refugees near Christmas Island. 

The problem for a merchant ship with a crew of around 20 having to host and provide support for 438 additional personnel can only be imagined. 

ICS took a huge interest in ensuring that this event would not be repeated in the Mediterranean. 

Whilst I was engaged in various international political discussions on the situation in the Mediterranean, I met and worked with Chris and Regina Catrambone, the founders of MOAS. 

When I retired, Regina and Chris asked my wife and I to found a UK based charity, MOAS(UK) which now supports various MOAS missions around the world. 

You now work as an independent maritime advisor and a member of the Nautical Institute Executive Board – what does that involve?

I am very fortunate to have a long history of association with ocean-based activity. 

27 years in the Royal Navy, mostly underwater in the Submarine Service, followed by 18 years at ICS dealing with shipping related issues at the UN and some of its subsidiary bodies such as IMO and ILO. 

My good fortune has been to be able to build on that experience in some advisory or consultancy roles. 

A lot of my time has been devoted to the importance of decarbonising shipping’s propulsion and I am pleased that the IMO now has a clear strategy toward a carbon free maritime industry. 

The Nautical Institute (NI) is the professional body for mariners that have commanded, or aspire to command ships. 

It is an honour to pay back something of what I gained from a completely rewarding career, by now chairing the NI’s Executive Board (EB). 

The EB is the body that oversees the business of the NI and the Board is also the Board of Trustees.  As with any charity role, the task is to ensure that the charity complies with its Charitable objects and maintains itself in a financially viable position.

I also have a seat on a number of charity boards as it is incredibly satisfying to see how different charities approach their work and to some extent to offer my experience for what I hope is mutual benefit!

You’ve worked closely with and contributed significantly to the IMO’s work for many years – what are the aspects that you are most proud of?

I represented the views of ICS members in a whole range of regulatory measures that the IMO was debating from the Recycling Convention, through environmental issues such as air pollution and ballast water, to debates on safety issues under SOLAS.  But I am most proud of the work towards IMO’s strategy for decarbonisation. 

It took many years to corral the ICS membership around a policy of reducing carbon emissions; a discussion that was mirrored in the years it took IMO Member States to also support such a radical move for the entire shipping industry.  

The ICS membership was very responsive to the outcomes of various UNFCCC COP Meetings that I attended and this was pivotal in slowly drawing this into a strongly held consensus. 

We haven’t reached the end game yet as there is still much detail to agree upon.  I was very pleased to see the IMO’s initial strategy published just before I retired as it was a personal objective.

You are now working with MOAS (UK) https://www.moas.eu/, can you tell us a bit more about this? To date most refugees arriving in boats in the UK have been picked up by the RNLI and the MCA – what are MOAS’s plans?

MOAS has not become engaged in a physical sense in the Channel rescues but, from a moral point of view, we have offered support and solidarity with the RNLI. 

The reason for the lack of physical activity from MOAS is that MOAS is transitioning to a rapid response organisation.  MOAS, supported by MOAS(UK) has current missions in Bangladesh, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and of course Ukraine and educational support for migrants already in Malta.

How does MOAS intend to work with the other organisations in this area?

MOAS generally tries to work in partnership with other NGOs and IGOs. 

For example, in Ukraine, we are working inside the WHO Health Cluster and Trauma working group; this is to ensure that our resources are deployed optimally but also to ensure that there is no duplication of effort across the various organisations.

What would MOAS like to achieve by setting up in the UK? 

MOAS has learned by experience that the two nations most notable for their charitable giving are USA and UK.   

MOAS wanted to take advantage of UK Gift Aid etc and therefore it made sense to have MOAS(UK) set up under the UK Charity Commission. 

Do you have any message/thoughts for the rest of the maritime SAR community? 

The issue of migration is not going to go away and indeed there is every indication that it will increase in response to climate change, lack of water and food resources. 

There is every indication that the global weather patterns are shifting and that storm intensity and frequency will increase. 

With these pressures, SAR and the related need to respond to demands for refugee support will only increase. 

There is little indication that political views will match the practical needs and now is the time to renew demands on governments for financial and practical support before services are overwhelmed.