This year on June 25, IMO’s Day of the Seafarer fell upon on a Sunday. I have not seen any statistics, but I have wondered if this day of recognition, falling as it did on a Sunday, was observed to the same degree as previous years.
I only know from likes and retweets of my own posts that there seemed to be somewhat more individual interest, but it appeared to me that corporate interest was low. Perhaps IMO has watched the internet more closely and noticed any trend that may have existed. At any rate, I wondered if this year’s theme “Seafarers Matter” caught much attention, as it should.
Depending on which statistics you refer to, between 80 to 90 percent of all the world’s goods travel by sea. To do that, the International Chamber of Shipping estimates almost 1.7 million women and men sail on ships globally on internationally trading ships. That huge number does NOT include the many hundreds of thousands more that trade on purely coastal or cabotage trades.
That's an incredible number of seafarers who are generally out of sight, out of mind. How many think that the Toyota they are driving, the television they are watching, the clothes they are wearing or the food they are eating has arrived under the silent and unseen care of any number of those faceless seafarers?
Suddenly it seems weak to think of giving a thought to those seafarers for only one day a year. What of the other 364 days, each as lonely or as challenging to those seafarers as June 25? Their situation, so far from home, family and friends is no less demanding for the remainder of the year.
I suppose where I am going with this is towards trying to get more of humanity to think a little more regularly about those 1.7 million unseen seafarers. Perhaps think of passing donations to welfare funds, support organizations and other seafarer charities on more than one day a year. It doesn’t take much of a Google search to come up with many reputable charities that provide a little comfort to seafarers who find themselves apart from families, ill, stranded or simply alone in port.
Statistics are hard to pin down, but many reports seem to indicate that upwards of 5,000 to 10,000 seafarers around the world are stranded or unpaid. Which brings me to another reason for writing this. I am also urging some of you to join a new initiative to provide aid and repatriation to stranded or unpaid seafarers.
Some days ago, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) tweeted asking for great philanthropic ideas, somewhere he could make a difference. On a spur of a moment, a number of us (@icenav57, @carsjam33 and @o_merk) began a thread in response to Mr. Bezos’ tweet suggesting he support a fund and organization to assist in repatriating seafarers who find themselves stranded, through no fault of their own, far from home.
Even a gesture as simple as providing a seat on one of the many aircraft shuttling just-in-time deliveries for Mr. Bezos’ vast Amazon empire could make a huge difference. So please, to help make every day of the year a Day of the Seafarer, help us by sending your own tweet to Jeff Bezos, supporting the effort to support repatriating stranded seafarers.
Captain David “Duke” Snider is President of The Nautical Institute.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.