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International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare Awards 2010

December 1, 2010

International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare Awards 2010
IMO Headquarters
1 December 2010
Welcome address by
E.E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General, IMO

Excellencies, Permanent Representatives to IMO, Heads of ISF, ITF and ICMA, Heads of other international shipping organizations, delegates and observers to MSC, media representatives, Ladies and gentlemen,
Well, here we are in December and yet still, it seems, the “Year of the Seafarer” continues to provide an impetus for events that celebrate seafarers or, in the particular case that brought us here this evening, those who are concerned with seafarers’ welfare.
It is, therefore, a genuine pleasure for me to welcome you all here to IMO Headquarters this evening for the first ever International Seafarer Welfare Awards, which, I am sure you will agree, are an excellent initiative on the part of the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare and one which I am delighted to be able to support wholeheartedly.
It seems sadly inappropriate that, in the 21st Century, we should still be talking about seafarers’ welfare as an issue that needs to be resolved and handing out awards to those who espouse and promote best practices in this respect.
Seafaring is a difficult and demanding job at the best of times, and no one could reasonably argue that seafarers should not enjoy the same rights as those accorded to workers ashore: simple things that most of us take for granted, such as the right to payment of wages; the right to healthy, safe and decent working conditions; the right to time off – including time off ashore, in the case of seafarers – and many others besides.
However, as we all know, there are still too many examples of these rights being denied to seafarers; examples of seafarers being abandoned in foreign countries, denied shore leave, incarcerated without conviction, and so on.
It is important, therefore, that we recognise those companies, ports, welfare organizations and individuals, who do take seafarers’ welfare seriously and who go the extra mile to make sure that a difficult life is not made any harder. Those who have been nominated for this evening’s awards, whether or not they win the ultimate prizes, all merit praise for the part they have played in ensuring that some of the comforts afforded to most shore-based workers are also available to seafarers, whether on land or at sea.
On a broader note, may I just say what a source of great satisfaction it has been to me to see just how much the “Year of the Seafarer” has resonated within the wider maritime community during the course of this year.  It has provided ample opportunity for all concerned to highlight both the vital work that seafarers undertake – work on which we all depend – and the difficult conditions under which they are often required to work. These awards are yet another example of the momentum that that has built up behind the “Year of the Seafarer”, and I commend and thank the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare for establishing them.  I am sure they will be very much appreciated throughout the maritime world and will soon become much sought-after accolades.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is the last event we host here at IMO as part of our action plan to celebrate the Year of the Seafarer.  And I want to take this opportunity to thank all those – be they Governmental, industry or media representatives – who have joined us in recognizing, throughout the year, the services of the seafarers and paying tribute to them for what they are doing for all of us.  That recognition and that tribute should not come to an end at the end of this year.  They, instead, should continue being expressed, desirably more forcefully, next and in the years to come – and not only on the Day of the Seafarer that we are going to celebrate as from next year. 
And, when, before this year closes, we sit down to take stock of what we were able to achieve during the Year of the Seafarer, may we be able to say that, yes, we achieved our objectives and, yes, we were able to make a difference!
To all our guests this evening, I wish a Merry Festive Season and a Happy New Year!
And now to the presentation of the Awards.