Day of the Seafarer 2019

More than 80 per cent of global trade is transported by ships to people and communities all over the world. Almost everything that we use and need in our daily lives is directly or indirectly impacted by sea transport, making seafarers essential to our way of life since they are responsible for the safe and smooth delivery of the cargo.

On the Day of the Seafarer, celebrated annually on 25 June, we take a moment to express our thanks to the World’s 1,2 million seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships in contribution to the world economy and our economic and social well-being. The theme of 2019 Day of the Seafarer, “I am on board with gender equality,” ties well with the IMO World Maritime Day Theme for 2019  “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community.” These important themes highlight the opportunities for women, as well as the contributions they are making, in a wide range of maritime careers and professions.

The full and meaningful participation of women in the economy, political decision-making, and society is key to achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 that is focused on gender equality. Women currently represent only two per cent of the world’s seafarers and 94 per cent of them are working in the cruise industry. In a keynote address video message for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’s (NIMASA) Day of the Seafarer celebrations, President Doumbia-Henry stated, “there are a number of barriers that prevent women from becoming seafarers including gender prejudices, working and living conditions, legal and administrative obstacles, work-life balance, physically demanding tasks, equal pay gaps, lack of information and opportunities, and the glass ceiling. For the Day of the Seafarer, I strongly encourage all the stakeholders to remove such cultural, structural and legal barriers that impede the recruitment of women seafarers.”

From 4-5 April, the University hosted the WMU Empowering Women in the Maritime Community Conference with over 350 participants from more than 70 countries. The aim of the event was to address the gender gap in the maritime, oceans, ports, fishing and related industries. A set of conclusions was the result of the two-day discussions reflecting the participants’ firm commitment to cooperate, coordinate and collaborate in the development and implementation of gender-responsive policies and related programmes in their respective sectors and areas of responsibility. The conclusions have been developed to serve as best practice guidance for all stakeholders committed to action focused on increasing gender balance across maritime and ocean industries. At the conference, President Doumbia-Henry stated, “Gender equality is not simply an issue for women only. Everyone has a role to play. This year’s Day of the Seafarer and World Maritime Day themes are providing 365 days of sunshine on women in 2019. If we seize this exceptional momentum, we have the power to affect real change in the maritime industry where representation of women remains at unacceptably low levels.”

A factor that will affect the maritime industry, and seafaring as a career, is the changing nature of the work. According to the recent WMU research report titled “Transport 2040: Automation, Technology, Employment - The Future of Work”, automation in the maritime industry will be “evolutionary rather than revolutionary” and the pace of change will be different in different jurisdictions and socio-economic contexts. Speaking at the recent 7th International Forum on Seafarers’ Education, Training and Crewing (ETC-2019), from 5-6 June organized by the National University Odessa Maritime Academy in Ukraine, President Doumbia-Henry maintained that for long-term sustainability of the industry, the emphasis on training, which has been the main focus of seafarer education to date, will need to shift toward a more holistic education to meet the demands of technology that will reshape the shipping industry.

International Day of the Seafarer, observed annually on 25 June, was designated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2010 as a way to recognize the contribution made by the world’s seafarers. It is recognized by the United Nations as an observance day.  

Roughly 30 percent of WMU faculty and students have seafaring experience. Seafarers inspire the work of the University in serving the global maritime community through education, research and capacity building. WMU’s Maritime Education and Training specialization is also designed to train maritime educators, with a particular focus on the STCW requirements.

More information about Day of the Seafarer can be found on IMO’s website.

To read the inspiring Global Maritime Forum article on empowering women leaders in the maritime industry by President Doumbia Henry, click here.

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