June 25 is IMO Day of the Seafarer, and the IMO is encouraging everyone to join the campaign and show that #SeafarersMatter. Under this theme, the campaign is engaging people responsible for the world’s ports and seafarer centers to demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them by featuring initiatives that support and promote seafarer welfare.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has prepared a video message for the occasion, and he spoke to MarEx about why the day has personal meaning for him.
“Even as a young child, I was aware of ships and trade, growing up close to a port in the Republic of Korea. So it was natural for me to see the world of shipping as a career choice,” says Lim.
“My time at sea as a merchant seafarer has really informed the rest of my working life. I would say that this time allowed me to understand the importance of seafarers and their needs, as I then moved on to work in the government administration, before heading up the port of Busan and now as Secretary-General of IMO.
“As any former seafarer will tell you, we all share a special bond that links us to our time at sea. So, I am always keen to put seafarers at the center of IMO's work.”
The Day of the Seafarer is a great opportunity for this. “This year, I am really pleased to see the focus on seafarer centers. These centers really can provide a small taste of home for seafarers of all nationalities – a sanctuary they can visit to, amongst other things, rest, call home and catch up with their loved ones on social media.
“When I was at sea, we did not have the advantages of technology we do today. Letters home took weeks. Today, mobile phones and internet connection are much prized, and this is illustrated by the interactive world map we have created for the Day of the Seafarer. It showcases best practices in seafarer support and welfare and is asking people to share the special things they do for seafarers and what services their organizations are offering to seafarers. This virtual map is creating an interactive web of safe havens for seafarers around the world.”
Looking back to his goals when he took up office, highlighting the desire to strengthen partnerships, Lim says: “I have always said that the work of IMO is a collaborative effort. I am honored to be serving as Secretary-General, but the work of IMO is also dependent on the cooperation and work of the IMO membership, the wide range of partners and stakeholders and the whole of the IMO Secretariat. This is something I have been keen to promote and will continue to do so.
“In all of this, seafarers are at the very heart of everything we do. Seafarers depend on the whole package of measures developed by IMO to ensure their safety and security and so that they too contribute towards sustainable and environment-sensitive shipping. As the Day of the Seafarer theme rightly says, seafarers matter.
“And I am also very pleased that IMO hosted, on 23 June, a workshop run by ITF on the implementation of the 2006 Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident. This is a subject very close to my heart and it is fitting that this workshop coincides with the celebration of the Day of the Seafarer.”
Industry Has Its Say
Captain Kuba Szymanski, Secretary-General of Intermanager
When I eat bread, I realize that wheat, flour and yeast all came by sea; the coffee I drink in the morning was on one of our ships; and car I drive uses fuel which was brought by a seafarer. Actually anything and everything round me was on board a vessel. That makes me pretty proud and happy.
I would love ports to COOPERATE, and wake up and realize that they need us seafarers - they need happy seafarers. They need to follow already established procedures and attitudes – look no further than airports where pilots and cabin crews are given their due – they are PART of the family. They are treated as an important stakeholder.
Anita Oestmann, Global Head of Competence & Learning and Academy at DNV GL – Maritime
On this International Day of the Seafarer, I would like to take the opportunity to recognize and raise awareness for the valuable contribution seafarers make to our industry and global trade as a whole. A commitment to ensuring seafarer’s safety and offering them new insights into the latest technologies and upcoming regulations is what drives our work here at the DNV GL Academy.
And in a time, where shipping is undergoing a digital transformation and ships are turning into sophisticated sensor hubs and data generators, seafarer competence has become even more important. Everything that happens on board a ship, from ensuring the cyber security of assets at sea and operating a vessel to achieve optimal performance, starts with individual seaman.
So on this Day of the Seafarer, let us thank mariners around the world for their work and pledge to advance their competence, provide equal opportunities and to ensure their safety and well-being at all times.
Captain Jeffrey W. Monroe, Director, Education and Training Programs at the International Association of Maritime and Port Executives
As a seafarer and port executive, I fully understand the capabilities our professional mariners bring to the industry. What makes the seafarer so adaptable is that every day he or she is faced with new challenges that need to be addressed and handled successfully.
I saw that skill in my father who went to sea for many years and also in my daughter who like me, holds a Master Mariner’s ticket. As our shore side industry begins to recognize the need to attract and hold onto skilled professionals, I have seen that those mariners who have chosen to come ashore and have begun to work at ports and terminals have enjoyed an excellent level of success. They have brought the skills and ability to address challenges ashore and are becoming an asset to the employers lucky enough to find them.
Our port and terminal operators need to be proactive in reaching out to the seafaring community and helping them understand the scope of the industry and the many opportunities there are ashore. These jobs come with good salaries and great benefits and for the mature individual who wants to stay in the industry, this presents an option that benefits our industry overall.
The port and terminal industry needs skilled professionals. A professional mariner would be welcome in this growing field, one that is looking for solutions to address the potential shortage of skilled professionals needed in our expanding ports. By the nature of their work and experience, they are among the most highly qualified to meet those needs.
Claes Eek Thorstensen, President and CCO of the Thome Group
There are a lot of articles in the media currently promoting automated ships, so it is little wonder that the role of seafarers can get overlooked and taken for granted by some. At Thome we have always valued our employees, both on board and ashore, and although new technology can help with operational efficiencies, we still strongly believe the human element is essential in maintaining a safe and cost-effective service for our principals.
This is the reason we fully support the IMO’s Day of the Seafarer each year to celebrate and highlight the work performed by seafarers in often very difficult circumstances. We will be encouraging all our crews to share their experiences through pictures and videos to illustrate this year’s theme Seafarers Matter and as an incentive we will be awarding a prize to the best submission.
Drew Brandy, Senior Vice President, Market Strategy, Inmarsat
If shipping lanes are the arteries facilitating upwards of 90 percent of world trade, then ships and seafarers are the red blood cells oxygenating the global economy. Yet, modern day seafarers still face many hardships. Their life is often a lonely one, isolated and devoid of the basic services most of us take for granted. The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is a welcome step in the right direction, particularly with respect to ensuring a minimum baseline for living and working conditions.
Captain Alan Loynd, Editor of CHIRP's Maritime FEEDBACK magazine
The International Day of the Seafarer is an opportunity for everyone to acknowledge the debt they owe to seafarers. Without them, the world would be a very different and less comfortable place, and it is appropriate that, on June 25, we let them know that seafarers matter to all of us.
Andreas Nordseth, Director General, Danish Maritime Authority
The maritime industry is one of Denmark's most important business sectors, and Blue Denmark contributes to a large share of total exports. We must remember, however, that behind all the key figures there is an industry that plays a major personal role to many Danes who either are seafarers or are closely related to seafarers. These years, much is about ensuring that the maritime industry can seize the potentials offered by the new technology in terms of, for example, automation and digitalization. But, in this context, it is actually a precondition that we have highly qualified seafarers with the right competences also in the years to come.
Trevor Whitworth, Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing, Globecomm Asia
The ability to connect seafarers to friends and family at home has come a long way in a short time; from an era of inconvenient and expensive phone calls to one of easier access to email, internet and social networks.
Since the boom in cheap mobile devices, there have rightly been words of caution about the risks of isolation that might result from increased ‘screen time’ and arguments that common activities are better for crew morale and safety.
Of course, both should be encouraged but no-one should imagine that the mental health and well-being of seafarers is improved by controlling or restricting access to better communications.
The future is going to bring us more connectivity, not less. Perhaps we should be more open-minded about what seafarers need, what the technology can deliver and how to create an environment in which communications is considered more like an abundant utility than a rare and precious commodity.
Serious shipowners, operators and managers are increasingly embracing this trend and managing the process with respect for the crew’s need to access information, stay in touch with home and be entertained.
One thing is certain, trying to swim against a tide of social media, chat, video, instant connections, not to mention news and sport, is pointless. As long as there are seafarers, they will want cheap and easy access to friends, family and beyond. The difference is that they increasingly believe it is their right to do so.
Christian Ioannou, Managing Director of Marine Catering Training Consultancy (MCTC) Marine
Our crews are the glue that holds the shipping industry together. That is why the yearly celebration of our seafarers, Day of the Seafarer, is such an important one, and one I hope is celebrated for many more years to come. This year’s theme Seafarers Matter is a simple but effective message. Without our seafarers the shipping industry would cease to exist, world trade would not have the ability to carry on and the global economy will collapse. That is why it is so important to ensure high standards of training and professional ethics onboard ships.
We believe it is important to celebrate Day of the Seafarer, because it shows crew members that their tremendous hard work and efforts are recognised by the whole industry. At MCTC we recognize the importance of crew welfare and that is the foundations that we have built our company on.
One of the biggest motivating factors while being out at sea, or anywhere for that fact, is food. Through our training courses, we ensure that catering crews are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to create nutritious and varied meals for seafarers, and enables them to cater for a wide variety of nationalities and cultures.
To celebrate Day of the Seafarer we challenged our current group of trainees of our Maritime Culinary Development Programme to bake and decorate their own cakes under the Seafarers Matter theme at out onshore training establishment MCTC Far East in Makati, The Philippines.
Tony Baker (Director of Loss Prevention) at North P&I Club
One of the things that matters to North is the health and welfare of seafarers. The working lives of modern seafarers can leave them open to many forms of stress. For some it’s being away from home, or the long hours. For others the more pressing challenges are due to language barriers, or having little opportunity for time ashore. These are all factors that can affect the health and welfare of mariners, which, in turn, can increase the risk of accidents and incidents.
The early identification of potential health and welfare issues on board is vital to protect individual mariners, as well as their colleagues. Most of the time, when the signs are picked up early, more serious problems can be avoided. The two best ways to do this are to encourage dialogue between the crew, and to enhance the social aspects of their life on-board. Having support available ashore in port seafarer centers is also vital, as access to communication and recreation facilities helps alleviate stress. Seafarers can also talk through any worries or concerns they have with staff in the centers who are often in a position to help.
Remember, if someone seems out of sorts, there’s usually a reason for it. If you care about seafarers, show them that they matter.
Matthew Galston, Director of Product Management, Intellian
Invisible threads can often be the strongest ties. Many veteran seafarers fondly regale tales of the excitement of a port agent arriving with letters from friends and family. In those days it was understood that communication with the world was the exception not the norm, whereas for today’s mariners - regardless of their age or seniority - regular, real time contact with those back home is a must.
Despite suggestions to the contrary, high quality, continuous global connectivity isn’t only useful for optimizing operations, but can enable so much more; it has become a tone-setter when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best crew. This does not need to be aspirational in today’s world; seamless connectivity should be a realistic expectation.
Moreover, connectivity can lead to improvements to living standards through access to medical services, and enhanced satellite communications make it easier to direct vessels away from at-risk areas and improve working conditions through reduced anxiety. As we mark Day of the Seafarer, we shouldn’t forget that it takes a good connection to home to build a rewarding career at sea.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.