The shipping industry is as much the world’s key industry as it is an invisible industry. Most consumers cannot envision what the shipping industry and its workforce entails for our daily lives, guaranteeing that all the things we take for granted work. Ensuring a crucial task for the world’s trade, the shipping industry transports about 90% of our daily necessities and commodities. We can easily go to the store to buy coffee beans, we can simply stop at a gas station for fuel and we can even order a new pair of boots, wait a while, and the purchase magically appears on our doorstep. We can’t even imagine it, but our purchase may have sailed half the world. We just rely on the idea that what we need is produced when we need it and transported to us when we must use it.
As important the shipping industry is to the well-functioning economy of the world, more important is the often-invisible workforce behind the industry; the 1.7 million seafarers. They are responsible for a great variety of cargo and operations, they sail in the seven seas navigating massive containerships while facing rough storms, monstrous waves and piracy affected areas. Away from their homes and loved ones, they dedicate their lives to the challenges, loneliness, and dangerousness at sea, often away for nine to twelve months at a time. Without their service, the world economy would be severely affected while we would lack basic necessities. Almost everything we use in our day-to-day lives, has been directly or indirectly affected by the shipping industry.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipping industry and its seafarers kept the world supplied, filling our supermarkets shelves, our hospitals for medical supplies and now they will be responsible for distributing vaccines to countries across the world. But 2020 was especially hard. Stuck at sea, these vital workers are facing a humanitarian crisis. Shore leave is a rarity due to countries’ restrictions to try and contain the pandemic, experiencing physical and mental exhaustion, anxiety, and illness after spending months on board and unable to perform crew change at ports. In some recent incidents, seafarers were denied medical care ashore during restrictions, denied moving out the ship at all and returning home to their families.
“Seafarers’ work is unique and essential. Just like other key workers, seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need – and deserve – quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during the pandemic, but at all times”. IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.
We need to collectively ensure best practice towards them and recognize seafarers as the key workers they are. “Seafarers’ work is unique and essential. Just like other key workers, seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need – and deserve – quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during the pandemic, but at all times”. expressed IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. Therefore, we raise awareness about the lives of the seafarers, and add a voice to their safety and welfare.
Look around again, around 90% of what you have – television, computer, clothing, car – were likely brought to you by sea. When finishing this article, imagine how your life would be without the contribution of the seafarers.
MARPRO says thank you for your service and contribution. This article is inspired by BIMCO’s short film “Ships make the world go”, with the objective of raising awareness outside the shipping and maritime industry about the vital role this industry and its workforce play in everyone’s life, societies, and business. Help increase awareness by distributing the video.