Day of the Seafarer 2021

Seafarers matter

Approximately 90% of all goods globally are delivered by ship. Without the maritime industry we simply could not survive.  The people keeping these supply chains going are the seafarers.  From Captain and First Officer through to the cooks and the ratings all are valued seafarers.  Many spend months away from home and their loved ones in a role which often goes overlooked by the “rest of the world” (i.e. outside Maritime).

The International Day of the Seafarer was launched to break this veil of secrecy and raise the profile of seafarers.  It was first held in 2010 after the publication of a new set of international laws (Maritime Labour Convention or MLC) which were agreed to ensure seafarers all receive an equal level of training, general welfare and safety standards.

The International Day of the Seafarer is a rare opportunity for the industry to educate, raise awareness and “showcase” the vital work of seafarers.  Seafarers who keep the World supplied with essential and non-essential goods. 

There are an estimated population of over 1.64 million seafarers currently serving on internationally trading merchant ships at any time.  China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are estimated to be the 5 largest supply countries for all seafarers.* 

Seafarers supply the global demand for goods.  From the numerous Amazon packages delivered daily to the toilet rolls on the supermarket shelf.  A large number of these items were delivered by seafarers. 

The pandemic

During the pandemic we saw shortages in some supplies and people stock piled what we might consider “basic” supplies such as pasta and toilet rolls.  But did anyone stop to think why there could be a shortage?  How the seafarer is playing a role in the transportation of these goods and why there may just be a human face to the problem?  

Seafarers have been affected by a Crew Change Crisis 2020/21 caused by the Covid19 pandemic.  Crew who have been unable to return home for long periods over and above their contracts.  Stories of crew “stuck” onboard for over 18 months have been well covered in the maritime press.  Sick crew  unable to seek medical attention or be repatriated due to lockdown and quarantine restrictions.  Crew onboard with no face to face contact with loved ones who might be ill with Covid19 or worse living through a terrible pandemic situation like we have seen in South America and India. 

Key players and influencers in the industry have campaigned for seafarers to be granted “Key Worker” status and this has been agreed in many countries around the world.  However, the difficulties effecting crew change continue.

In the UK Club Crew Health team we think of every day as the Day of the Seafarer.  Our work has a constant focus to protect the “best assets on board” through mental and physical health and wellbeing initiatives and partnerships with maritime resources.  Please see our upcoming webinar on the Club’s Crew Health activities and that of our partners Mission to Seafarers.

This year, on International Day of the Seafarer Day (25th June) if you would like to proactively support the work of seafarers around the world please consider making a donation to the various seafarer and maritime charities who work tirelessly for the welfare and wellbeing interests of seafarers.  Why not undertake a sponsored event, share some information on your own social media or just donate via the charity website.  Through the linked sites below you can support the work of the Crew Health partners at this crucial time.

Further reading / additional resources

Seafarer Charities

For more information please get in touch with Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Director at the UK Club. 

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*Information from ICS (https://www.ics-shipping.org/shipping-fact/shipping-and-world-trade-global-supply-and-demand-for-seafarers/#:~:text=The%20worldwide%20population%20of%20seafarers%20serving%20on%20internationally,supply%20countries%20for%20all%20seafarers%20%28officers%20and%20ratings%29.)

Sophia Bullard

Crew Health Programme Director

Date23/06/2021