We live in a global society which is supported by a global economy – and that economy simply could not function if it were not for ships and the shipping industry. Without shipping, intercontinental trade, the bulk transport of raw materials and the import/export of affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not be possible. Yet, for most people, shipping, not to mention the huge range of related maritime activities that go to make up what is loosely termed ''the shipping industry'', do not register a particularly strong echo on their personal radar. And the same, as a consequence, can be said of the seafarers that operate the world's fleet, despite the fact that the global economy depends utterly on their presence. Seafarers are, in effect, the lubricant without which the engine of trade would simply grind to a halt.
Shipping usually only comes to greater prominence when, as inevitably happens from time to time, the bleaker side of the industry rears its head, when an accident or pollution occurs. Yet the truth is that, over many decades, shipping has actually become much safer and much cleaner.