Day of the Seafarer 2021: Fair Future for Seafarers

Day of the Seafarer is celebrated annually on 25 June to express thanks to the World’s 1,5 million seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships thereby contributing to the world economy and economic and social well-being. The 2021 Day of the Seafarer theme is Fair Future for Seafarers.

In recognition of Day of the Seafarer 2021, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU) provided a video message saying:

To view President Doumbia-Henry’s Day of the Seafarer video message, click here.

"June 25th, the Day of the Seafarer, is dedicated to recognizing, celebrating and paying tribute to the 1.5 million seafarers around the world for the invaluable contribution they make to the world economy and civil society. Without their dedication and professionalism, international trade and the mass movement of vital resources and commodities such as food, fuel and medicines would cease to be possible.

A career at sea provides many benefits, such as world travel, good wages, and transferable skills. Nevertheless, it goes largely unrecognized that the men and women working on ships spend long periods of time away from their families, working in demanding, isolated and often dangerous conditions. Last year these conditions were unprecedentedly magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seafarers both onboard ships and ashore faced and continue to face extraordinary physical, mental, emotional and financial hardships. Hundreds of thousands remain stranded at sea far beyond the end of their contracts, and in some cases, those with even non-COVID-related health issues are not getting easy access to medical treatment ashore. Many more seafarers wait at home, unable to join their ships to make a living.

In the face of these ongoing challenges, seafarers have shown bravery and resilience and have worked tirelessly to keep the transport of essential goods flowing. While some progress has been made in recognizing seafarers as essential workers and raising awareness of their plight, the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on issues regarding the working conditions and fair treatment of seafarers.To further exacerbate matters, a very recent study, informed by the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury, indicates that when work is carried out over more than 55 hours a week, the risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke increases substantially. The percentage increases for the two diseases when the 55-hour-week is exceeded is shocking, particularly when one notes that the current international legal framework makes possible weekly work hours for seafarers well in excess of 55 hours, substantially deviating from the norm for most shore-based work. The study is yet another clear signal to the maritime industry to comprehensively revisit the norms and practices related to seafarers’ working hours, health, welfare and wellbeing and to take bold action to address long standing issues. This is why the International Maritime Organization’s focus for this year’s Day of the Seafarer campaign calling for a fair future for seafarers, is worthy of support by all.  

WMU joins the IMO in encouraging governments, shipping companies and all stakeholders involved in or benefiting from the work of seafarers to support fair working conditions and fair treatment of seafarers in all areas.  

On the Day of the Seafarer and every other day, please join me in extending our respect and gratitude to all seafarers everywhere."

To view President Doumbia-Henry’s Day of the Seafarer video message, click here.

About 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, among others, to develop maritime educators and administrators, with a particular focus on the STCW requirements, while the Maritime Law and Policy specialization addresses the world of work component with a special focus of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 as revised.

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