Top United Nations officials are applauding the contribution of the 1.5 million merchant seafarers whose work is central to the livelihoods of billions of people worldwide, while also drawing attention to the perils they face on a daily basis.
“The vast majority of the world’s cargo must be transported by sea. This task is difficult enough in safe waters, but in high-risk areas, where seafarers live with the constant threat of piracy, it can be deadly,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the Day of the Seafarer, observed on 25 June.
“I have made addressing this complex problem a priority in the UN’s action agenda for the coming five years,” he added. “United Nations agencies, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO), have achieved real progress by working with partners to combat piracy. But we must do more to offer solutions that include security, deterrence and alternative livelihoods.
“At the same time, we must recognize the outstanding courage of seafarers who continue their work amidst formidable peril,” he stated.
The IMO has also developed a framework of measures to make shipping safer and cleaner than ever before, covering issues such as emissions of exhaust gases into the atmosphere, the use of harmful anti-fouling paints on the hulls of ships, discharge of sewage, garbage dumping and oil pollution.
The most important of these measures are now in force and apply to more than 90 per cent of the global fleet, Mr. Ban said, adding that such results are all the more impressive considering the recent massive expansion in seaborne trade.
“On this Day of the Seafarer, let us celebrate the brave women and men, from master to deck hand, from sandy shores to the deepest ocean blue, from all corners of the world, who make it possible for the shipping industry to underpin our global economy and foster greater progress for all,” said the Secretary-General.
The IMO is harnessing the power of social media to highlight the importance of seafarers. The London-based agency is urging people to take a photo about an object in their daily lives that they cannot live without, and which came by sea, write a description, record a song, or make a film and then post it on the social platform of their choice with words of gratitude.
In his message for the Day, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu said, “Let us take the opportunity to remember all those things that came by sea and which we could not live without. And, most importantly, let all of us make this the occasion on which we say ‘Thank you, seafarers.’”
Mr. Sekimizu recognized the sometimes harsh conditions that seafarers face, and encouraged shipowners and States to provide good facilities for crew and to promote the fair treatment of seafarers. Measures include providing comfortable accommodation and access to the Internet, and other facilities that others ashore take for granted.
He also noted that some 20,000 additional trained seafarers are required every year to meet the growing demands of global trade and the needs of the shipping and related industries.
“My final message is to all young persons on the verge of choosing a future career to seriously consider seafaring, as even today it provides the chance to see the world and get paid for doing so! It also provides for a fulfilling and rewarding professional career either as a lifelong seafarer or as a springboard for related professional jobs in the maritime industries ashore,” he added.