PictureClick picture for IMO Day of the Seafarer page
It’s the Day of the Seafarer - our day - and I wonder how most of us are spending it? I’ll bet that, given the average seaman’s work schedule, most seafarers are spending the day at work; during most of my long career, I spent at least two days afloat for each day I spent ashore. I’ve known sailors whose schedules were much more rigorous than that, and I’ll bet you have too.

The Day of the Seafarer is a pretty new phenomenon, having started only a few years ago. Here is the IMO’s description of its purpose:

• to increase awareness among the general public of the indispensable services  you render to international seaborne trade, the world economy and society at large;

• to send a clear message to you that we recognize and appreciate your services; that we understand the extraordinary conditions and circumstances of your profession; that we do care about you; and that we do all that we can to look after and protect you when the circumstances of your life at sea so warrant; and

• to redouble our efforts at the regulatory level to create a better, safer and more secure world in which you can operate.

I know most of you have also read the IMO news release and may be familiar with the social media campaign that was launched. The idea was to use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to personalize the “invisible” seafarer by submitting pictures  - to literally put a face on the seafarer. The Twitter hashtag -  - is doing pretty well, with some interesting posts. It’s easy to disparage the social media initiative, but it also has a good side, particularly when individual seafarers post thoughts and pictures unique to them. It’s fleeting recognition, but some of it is quite engaging. These are views of our industry that can only come from those seafarers. Many of those at sea, though, won’t be able to participate that way.
Barista Uno (whose take on the buzzphrase “the human element” is right on the money and well worth a read) takes the IMO campaign for this year’s Day of the Seafarer with a grain of salt. In “The myth of the invisible seafarers” he skewers the idea of our “invisibility” with affecting honesty and a scalpel wit. He rounds out the sentiment with this post when he says, “It’s a day for greeting seafarers and wishing them happiness and success, not a day for mouthing slogans.” Amen!

One of the things I keep reading in this year’s Day of the Seafarer coverage is how this is the year MLC 2006 comes into effect. If it’s fully and honestly implemented, mariner’s lives should be positively impacted. Not everyone is sanguine, however; Manu makes the case that shipowners are already trying to negate the wages provisions of MLC 2006 and draws gloomy inferences for the other, less fundamental provisions of this “fourth pillar” as well.

What is certain is that whether we’re recognized and appreciated, cared about and protected - or not - that seamen will continue to operate below the level of the average person’s consciousness. We can’t hope to raise the general level of awareness much.

But we can try to take care of each other. We can refuse to take part in the exploitation of other seamen. We can honor those who honor our profession and work to make it safer, such as the bloggers linked to above, and many others like them. We can work for the freedom of the 70 seamen still held captive in Somalia. And we can work for justice for the poor and powerless everywhere - a pair of adjectives that too often describe seamen themselves.

Did you celebrate Day of the Seafarer, or mark it in any way? Did you follow the Twitter stream or the YouTube videos? Let us know your opinion in Comments!

6/25/2013 10:12:09 pm

Thank you for this sober commentary and for mentioning Marine Café Blog in it.

"But we can try to take care of each other. We can refuse to take part in the exploitation of other seamen..." Great advice and words of wisdom as only a good old salt can give fellow mariners.


Your comment will be posted after it is approved.

Leave a Reply.