Day of the Seafarer Reception
IMO Delegates Lounge
27 June 2011
Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Ministers, Excellencies, distinguished guests, Professors, seafarers, cadets, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to this ceremony to celebrate with us the first ever ‘Day of the Seafarer’.
You may recall that, last year, the Manila Conference, which was convened by IMO to adopt a comprehensive set of amendments to the STCW Convention and Code, agreed that the unique, and all-too-often overlooked, contribution seafarers, from all over the world, make to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole, should be recognized globally and marked annually with a ‘Day of the Seafarer’. The date chosen was 25 June, the day on which the amendments were formally adopted.
Soon after, the United Nations included the Day in the annual list of United Nations Observances.
The first ‘Day of the Seafarer’ fell last Saturday – and we meet today on the first opportunity thereafter to pay tribute to the world’s 1.5 million seafarers – men and women from all nations – for their work, which adds so much to the well being of all of us.
We do so with deep appreciation of the extraordinary services they render every day of their professional lives, under tough and sometimes extremely dangerous circumstances. And, as much as it is true that, without shipping half the world would starve and the other half would freeze, it is also true that without seafarers there would be no shipping.
To increase awareness about the services provided by seafarers, we have launched an innovative web-based and social media campaign that has formed the centrepiece of our efforts to celebrate the ‘Day of the Seafarer’. As part of this campaign, which has been underway for several months now, we have been asking people, all over the world and from all walks of life, to voice their support for seafarers using social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter; by posting videos on YouTube; discussing seafarer issues on LinkedIn; or, even, writing a blog about life at sea.
I am pleased to report that the campaign has been strongly supported by industry partners, seafarers’ groups and many more from all over the world, and has built a tremendous momentum. It has been both educational and inspirational. There have been live, interactive links with seafarers aboard ships sailing around the globe and the celebration culminated on the ‘Day of the Seafarer’ itself, last Saturday, when all those, who had engaged in the campaign, were encouraged to send out the simple yet eloquent message “Thank you, seafarers!”.
The campaign has also sought to convey the message that shipping is the engine of global commerce, responsible for the carriage of more than 90 per cent of world trade, and that it is seafarers who ensure that that engine runs smoothly, delivering the essential items and commodities on which our lives depend.
I am sure many of you here will have participated in the campaign; but I would invite anyone, who has not, to take a look at the TV screen over to my right, which is displaying the “Day of the Seafarer
” Facebook page, and will give you an idea of the kind of response that has been generated.
So today, as we celebrate the first ‘Day of the Seafarer’, let us all resolve to redouble our efforts to ensure that seafarers have a safe, secure place of work that meets modern-day expectations; are fairly treated, when ships on which they serve become involved in accidents; are looked after, if they become abandoned in ports; are not unduly refused shore leave for security purposes; are protected, when their work takes them into piracy-infested areas; and are not left unaided when they are in peril at sea.
In paying tribute to the seafarers today for the services they render (which we enjoy in our everyday lives), we should not forget the indispensable role they play in helping to achieve safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans – the goals that IMO has set for itself and for the shipping industry.
It, therefore, pleases me immensely to turn now to address them, the seafarers directly, wherever they may be at this very moment, and say to them: “Seafarers, we thank and salute you – we wish you fair winds and calm seas and pray that, when the time comes, you return home to your families and friends, safe – especially those of you in the hands of pirates somewhere on the Somali coast or the Indian Ocean. At the same time, we honour the memory of those colleagues of yours who lost their lives in the service of shipping.”
Let us raise our glasses and say: “Thank you, seafarers!”