We are once again recognising the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Day of the Seafarer, on 25 June 2017. This day, every year the IMO works hard to focus the maritime industry’s and general public’s attention onto those men and women traversing the oceans to support a globalised trade network that underpins economies and lifestyles around the world.
The theme of this year’s Day of the Seafarer is ‘Seafarers Matter’. This may seem nebulous, but listening to the IMO Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, speak on the topic, he highlights many of the issues that we at Mission to Seafarers see on a daily basis – unpaid wages, stress, isolation, loneliness and even abandonment. All of these factors, and the sad reality that they have been so normalised they rarely register in industry news, can make seafarers feel like they don’t matter.
The Mission to Seafarers works tirelessly, all year round to offer direct support to seafarers facing these issues, or even just feeling homesick during months away from family and friends. The Mission knows that one day of the year shining a light on these common challenges won’t make them go away. So we ask that on this Day of the Seafarer, you pause to think not about an intangible, all-representing ‘seafarer’, but about a human being who matters.
Seafarers are men and women like each of us, with parents, children, husbands and wives who they care deeply about and who care deeply about them. They have a favourite football team, hobbies, and things that bring them joy. They should matter to each and every person that benefits from the work that they do and they should work in conditions, and with the appreciation, that allows them to feel like they matter.
The issues we support seafarers through on a daily basis show that there are still unscrupulous parts of our industry to whom they don’t matter, who simply see lines on a balance sheet rather than people. We speak to seafarers in distress, who have been left with no money, no food, and no way home. We work to help each one of them individually to assert their rights, to get whatever help they deserve and need, and to us they matter every day of the year.
This year, please take a moment to ask yourself how you or your organisation can help seafarers feel like they matter, not just today, but every day. If you’re an individual, you can support a charity like the Mission to Seafarers with a community fundraiser. Organisations can choose to work only with shipping companies that can demonstrate high seafarer welfare. Corporations who have seafarers in their care can form a partnership with the Mission to Seafarers to help identify the issues that seafarers face, and take steps to ensure the best possible response. Anyone and everyone can take action this Day of the Seafarer and make seafarers matter.