June 25th marks the Day of the Seafarers, a day to honor and appreciate the invaluable contributions of seafarers to global trade and the economy. Seafarers are the backbone of the shipping industry. They transport goods and commodities across the world’s oceans, connect countries, and keep economies running. This is the fruit of their sacrifice for working away from their families, not just days but months.
However, their work often goes unnoticed and underappreciated. The Day of The Seafarers, which happens every year, aims to spread awareness on why seafarers matter to our daily lives.
Who are our Seafarers?
Seafarers are individuals who work at sea, including crew members, officers, and engineers. They are responsible for the safe and efficient operation of ships, handling cargo, navigation, and maintenance. Whatever their rank on board is, they contribute to keeping the ship seaworthy.
Seafarers also work on a variety of vessels, from cargo ships and tankers to passenger liners and fishing boats. They come from diverse backgrounds and countries and often spend months away from land.
Their lives are also unique, one of the least understood, and exploited. Due to the nature of their work, they have their own world of untold stories and problems, adventures and misadventures, and fortunes and mishaps.
If you are one of those seamen who work tirelessly at sea, you will know that it is more than just a job or a means of earning money. Being a seafarer requires courage, resilience, and adaptability. You have to draw out these traits as you navigate challenging weather conditions and unpredictable situations. It is a profession that demands physical and mental strength, and the ability to work under pressure.
Seafaring is a demanding and challenging profession that requires physical and mental stamina. Seafarers work long hours, often in hazardous and adverse weather conditions. Let’s face it. Life on board is not just calm seas and colorful rainbows. Every day, we have to deal with various risks and dangers in our workplace including accidents, piracy, and health issues.
As a seafarer myself for more than ten years, I had my fair share of fair weather and stormy seas. I’ve been with a company that’s top-perfect with the rest and working hours of their crew but only on paper. In reality, everybody is working like a horse for more than 12 hours a day!
The prolonged and challenging working conditions have also taken a toll on seafarers’ mental health. Studies have shown that seafarers are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and stress due to isolation, separation from family, and inadequate medical support.
Ships having internet for their crew may reduce homesickness and stress but the medical support is still insufficient. What’s more, some captains defer sending their crew to a shore clinic or hospital because:
- The illness or injury can be attributed to the terrible work system he’s implementing on board,
- He believes the crew is malingering, and
- He’s saving money for the company!
Both reasons are totally ridiculous. It’s frustrating that instead of helping, a fellow seafarer is also the one making life on board very difficult.
Why Seafarers Matter
Seafarers play a critical role in the global economy, with around 90% of world trade being carried by sea. They transport essential goods such as food, fuel, and medical supplies, connecting countries and communities across the world. Aside from that, seafarers also contribute significantly to the economies of their home countries. They do this by providing employment opportunities and foreign exchange earnings.
The impact of seafarers on our daily lives cannot be overstated. Without them, we would not have access to the products and goods we rely on daily, such as electronics, clothing, and food. In times of crisis, such as natural disasters or pandemics, seafarers are the ones who transport critical supplies and aid to affected areas.
“Whatever your rank is, whatever is your color, whatever tongue you speak, you matter.”
Looking at the bigger picture, here are some key facts about seafarers and their contributions to the global economy.
- They belong to the minority group of less than 0.03% of the world’s population.
- Their job is part of a business that serves as the lifeblood of the global economy.
- And it’s not just an ordinary business. It’s a $500,000,000,000 industry (FIVE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS) that drives the world to move forward.
- Seafarers move 90% of the world’s goods and raw materials, either in solid, liquid, or gaseous form, to any corner of the sea.
- Without shipping, half of the world would starve and the other half would freeze, and
- They are working in a very strange environment; a large floating cubicle called a Ship mixed with different nationalities of tens, hundreds, or thousands!
Let’s support our seafarers
There are several ways to support seafarers and show appreciation for their work. One way is to raise awareness about their contributions and the challenges they face. Another way is to advocate for better working conditions, including adequate rest periods, access to medical care, and mental health support.
Furthermore, consumers can choose to support companies that prioritize the welfare of their seafarers, such as those that adhere to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) standards. By doing so, consumers can indirectly influence the industry’s practices and promote better working conditions for seafarers.
And to those seafarer families at home, you know you are the reason why we’re out here. And loving us can be a challenge too. What we ask of you is to be true to us and help us manage our finances. Let us push to our goals together and face every problem head-on.
Seafarers matter a lot. Let’s dedicate this day to our brave seafarers and their contributions to the global economy. And let us advocate for better working conditions so that they can work better and come home safe to their families.
May the winds be in your favor.