Seafarers need better support *

… says Capt. Rawle Baddaloo, Co-Leader CARIBMEPA

2021, August 1: I cannot say Happy World Seafarers Day as it is far from happy.

Rawle Baddaloo

Seafarers are key workers and they need better support. This was an opinion recently made at Smart 4 Sea virtual talk. One would think it’s obvious but regrettably it’s not. I have been in the industry for almost fifty-five years and I have seen the treatment of Seafarers deteriorate to unbelievable proportions. Maybe the pandemic is partially to blame. However, if you do not have a proper system for the overall welfare of seafarers every bump that comes along will upset matters. One of the worse hidden horrors of the pandemic, is, that ships have been turned almost overnight from the engines of global commerce into floating prisons.

On the 10th Anniversary of the Day of the Seafarer in June 2020 the focus was on the need for maritime personnel to be acknowledged as key front-line workers. Action has been taken but substantially more needs to be done. This year recognizes the unique contribution made by seafarers worldwide with the watchwords Fair Future 4 Seafarers.

The coordinated guidance and support provided by the IMO’s Seafarer Crisis Action Team alongside bodies such as the ICS, the ILO and the International Group of P&I Clubs has played a crucial role in delivering the progress thus far.

The United Nations Resolution on International Cooperation was passed to protect seafarers. It has mainly been given lip service notwithstanding the best hopes articulated by Secretary General of IMO Kitack Lim. Indeed, one large country actually took steps to evade or sidestep the Resolution.

Not sufficient traction

With it not gaining sufficient traction, The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change was introduced.

This Declaration defines four pillars namely to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning, including recognizing seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to COVID 19 vaccines as well as ensuring air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers. The other pillars are to establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice and to increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes

Ships are not infected by the virus. Seafarers can be infected. And they are needed to manage and sail vessels. We are not yet in the world of autonomous and unmanned vessels. We must protect our Seafarers.

Seafarers fulfill the role for society by keeping vital logistics arteries open when they are needed most; when one considers over 90% of global trade including essentials like food is carried by sea, and the number is higher in island economies as our own, seafarers have been largely overlooked.

This is not a one of initiative because of COVID 19. Thankfully the Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at sea programme is one which will help the Seafarer. In every shipping company the first clause in any SOP must be to look after the welfare of the Seafarer. The IMO has the theme for 2021.

“Seafarers at the core of Shipping’s Future”. Let us all do our best to fulfill this motto. []

* Statement delivered in conference on IMO Day of the Seafarer, June 25, 2021