Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted both their critical role, as well as the challenges they face, In his message to mark the Day of the Seafarer on Saturday.
“The world counts on seafarers,” he said.
“Ships transport a remarkable 90 per cent of the world’s commodities — from grains and energy, to consumer goods and much more. Without ships and the women and men who work on them, economies would stall and people would starve.”
However, seafarers have faced immense challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN chief listed some of these issues, which include contracts extended long beyond their expiry dates and maximum periods of service, and problems related to vaccinations, medical care and shore leave.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) continues to advocate for seafarers during the pandemic by urging countries to designate them as key workers.
Kitack Lim, the IMO Secretary-General, stated that without seafarers, there would be no shipping.
Sharing the journey
The theme for this year’s international day celebrates maritime journeys and voyages, providing a chance “to recognize and pay tribute to seafarers everywhere, whatever their voyage”, he said.
As part of an IMO campaign, seafarers from around the globe are using social media to share images and information about what truly resonates with them, whether a positive experience or challenging circumstances.
“Shipping and the call of the oceans, form a way of life,” said Mr. Lim. “It is a meaningful, important career that provides a solid foundation for life and offers endless opportunities to learn and progress.”
A greener future
The international day is also an opportunity to look to the future, and for the UN Secretary-General, this means listening to seafarers.
“They know better than anyone their needs and what this industry needs to do to address key challenges. This includes the expansion of social protection, better working conditions, addressing the crew-change crisis, adopting new digital tools to enhance safety and efficiency, and making this industry greener and more sustainable,” he said.
The UN chief concluded his message by calling for renewed commitment to supporting seafarers everywhere, and honouring their knowledge, professionalism and experience.