Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Call for Recognition as Day of the Seafarer Dawns in Exceptional Circumstances

Virus Has Highlighted the Essential Role Played by Mariners
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – As with so many normally celebrated events the 'Day of the Seafarer' in 2020 will be a much muted affair. The event, scheduled for the 25th June, will doubtless be devoted to giving thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who work every day to maintain the international supply chain. From fisherman working in the cold Northern Oceans to crews' aboard container vessels sailing in pirate infested waters, all deserve our gratitude.

On the eve of the occasion the campaign, organised by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) sees a concerted cry for the seafarers to be recognised as key workers by all of its member states. The IMO points out that many have been far from their homes and families for many months with no concrete plans for a return, all the while supporting the supply chain that keeps nations fed and secure. In his Day of the Seafarer message, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim highlights the unique and essential work of seafarers, saying:

"Just like other key workers, seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need, and deserve, quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during the pandemic, but at all times."

Mr Lim’s message can be heard in full HERE and meanwhile the general mood of the industry can be summed up in comments made in advance by Captain Rajesh Unni, CEO & Founder of Synergy Group, which employs more than 12,000 seafarers and has over 300 vessels under management, who commented:

”The Day of the Seafarer is when we take stock and appreciate the hard-working, professional and frequently heroic souls that make world trade possible. We owe them so much, especially now during this awful pandemic. But this year the Day is clouded with sadness and frustration. Today tens of thousands of hard-working seafarers are in a state of constant anxiety that threatens their mental health and general wellness. This awful state of affairs was, of course, caused by coronavirus lockdowns that have seen so many confined to ships indefinitely, and long beyond their legal contracts.

”But the situation has been exacerbated and prolonged by the inaction of politicians and cruelties of bureaucracy which are preventing crew changeovers so seafarers can return home to their worried families. We keep hearing seafarers are key, essential workers. So it is difficult to understand why, even as they deliver the products we need to survive the current crisis, seafarers are being denied basic human rights. At present, to all intents and purposes, they are enslaved to global trade. By denying them freedom of movement, seafarers are imprisoned in their place of work.

"The shipping industry has done everything in its power to bang the drum loud and hard about their plight but progress is proving painfully slow. We need crew source countries to help us help their citizens. We need a systematic approach to crew changeovers, not ad hoc sticking plasters. We need airports opened up, and aircraft landing slots and clearances granted with far more urgency. We need visas to be fast-tracked. And, more than anything, we need politicians and civil servants to help us cut through the red tape.

"Today, the Day of the Seafarer, is not a day to for empty words about the bravery and commitment of our seafarers, much as we admire and appreciate both. Today is the day when shipping needs help from our political leaders so that we can help our seafarers. Because enough really is enough."

Photo: The loneliness of the long distance seafarer (coutesy of the IMO).