ICSW Awards Event
By Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
28 November 2012
International Committee on Seafarer’s Welfare, Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted that we are able to welcome the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare here to IMO Headquarters and, in particular, that we are able to provide the venue for this awards ceremony. It gives us an opportunity, once again, to put seafarers and seafarers’ issues firmly in the centre stage.
As I am sure you are aware, IMO has long considered the human element in shipping to be a vital part of its work. It is a fundamental truth that all the regulations in the world designed to make shipping safer, cleaner, greener and more efficient will be worth nothing without the presence of a body of properly educated, trained, skilled and motivated men and women at the sharp end to implement them.
Not only has IMO developed measures to raise standards within the profession of seafaring, it has also worked tirelessly to promote seafaring as a viable career choice for people. We have championed the seafarer in many ways, perhaps most notably through the “Go to Sea” campaign, through our World Maritime Day theme for 2010, through the celebration of the annual “Day of the Seafarer” and, of course, through the statue at the entrance of IMO celebrating the work of the seafarers.
We have also been tireless in our efforts to promote public awareness of seafarers and the vital role they play in the everyday lives of ordinary people all over the world – people who usually don’t give a second thought to how the food, fuel, goods and commodities they consume every day have actually reached them.
Against this background, it is clear to see why issues of seafarers’ welfare resonate so strongly within IMO. Indeed, with so many individual members of the various national delegations to IMO, as well as of the NGOs associated with the Organization and of the Secretariat itself, there is a very strong personal interest in these matters. Although the Maritime Labour Convention is not an IMO Convention, the news that it had met its entry-into-force criteria in August this year was very well received within IMO, as this Convention has been referred to as one of the “four pillars” of shipping’s international regulatory regime, along with SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW which are, of course, all IMO Conventions. I am sure that, when it enters into force in August next year, it will begin to have a very positive and beneficial effect on seafarer welfare worldwide.
Seafaring can be a lonely profession, with much time spent away from the comforts of home and the companionship of friends and family, punctuated only by increasingly short periods ashore, typically in a port area remote from the city centre and with all the problems of language and currency often associated with time in a foreign country. In addition, external threats such as piracy, abandonment and the frequent dangers often associated with the sea add an unusual degree of stress and pressure to seafarers’ everyday working lives - all of which makes the importance of adequate and appropriate welfare facilities, both aboard ship and ashore, something that cannot be overstressed.
Ladies and gentlemen, these ICSW Awards recognize excellence in the provision of welfare facilities and services for seafarers all over the world. By raising awareness of best practice they will encourage improvement in existing welfare provision and promote the establishment of new services and facilities by raising the profile of seafarer welfare throughout the maritime industries. And, what makes them all the more noteworthy is the fact that all the nominations were put forward by seafarers themselves. There can, surely, be no better recommendation.
And so, once again, let me welcome you all here to IMO Headquarters and I look forward very much to meeting and congratulating the winners of this evening’s awards.