Launch of Seafarers’ Rights International
World Maritime Day
23 September 2010
Remarks by Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General,
International Maritime Organization
Excellencies, ITF General Secretary, Executive Director and Members of the Advisory Board of Seafarers’ Rights International, Permanent Representatives to IMO, Heads of international shipping organizations, Dr. Mensah, Mr. Schindler, Distinguished guests and media representatives, ladies and gentlemen, Good morning – and Happy World Maritime Day! May seafarers, whose special day we celebrate today, always have fair winds and calm seas and may they return safely home – to their families and friends!
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to IMO Headquarters today. You have been invited by our friends in the ITF, to participate in the inauguration of Seafarers’ Rights International and it is doubly fitting that we are able to host this auspicious occasion on their behalf. First, IMO has long been a committed supporter of seafarers, and their issues are always close to our hearts; human element considerations, in particular, are constantly at the forefront of our collective minds in everything we do here at IMO. Second, and more specifically, today is, of course, World Maritime Day and it cannot have escaped your attention that this year seafarers have been central to our theme; indeed, 2010 has been designated by IMO as “The Year of the Seafarer”.
Our friends from the ITF and Seafarers’ Rights International will shortly give you more details on what the Centre is, why it has been established and how it will beneficially impact the lives of seafarers.
Before they do so, I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate, once again, our reasons for dedicating 2010 to the seafarer. We wanted to give IMO, the maritime industries and, indeed, the international community as a whole the opportunity to pay tribute to the world’s seafarers for their unique contribution to society, in recognition of the risks they shoulder in the execution, far away from their families and friends, of their duties in what is often a hazardous and hostile environment.
When 2010 was first proposed as the Year of the Seafarer, I remarked upon the particular hazards that confront the 1.5 million seafarers in the world. As well as the natural hazards of the sea and the elements, which they have to deal with as a matter of course, they also face, in our uncertain times, exceptional hazards, such as pirate attacks, unwarranted detention and abandonment.
The launch of Seafarers’ Rights International today will undoubtedly help those seafarers that are caught up in such circumstances, through no fault of their own, by providing a centre dedicated to advancing seafarers’ interests through research, education and legal training concerning seafarers’ issues.
Throughout this year, seafarer issues have had a particularly high profile in IMO’s regulatory work, the pinnacle of which was the adoption, in Manila, last June, of revisions to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers and its associated Code. The “Manila amendments”, as they have become known, will ensure that the necessary global standards will be in place to train and certify seafarers to operate today’s technologically advanced ships for some time to come.
Moreover, the designation, by the Manila Conference, of 25 June as the “Day of the Seafarer”, to be celebrated annually as from next year, will help to ensure that the vital role played by seafarers, and the need to continually improve their safety and welfare, remain uppermost in the consciousness of Governments, shipping organizations, companies, owners, operators and managers.
In this context, it would be remiss of me not to mention and acknowledge the co-operation, deep and strong, IMO has long enjoyed with the International Labour Organization. Working in close collaboration on matters of common interest and, when the seriousness of a particular issue so dictates, through joint expert working groups, the two Organizations have developed guidelines on key issues such as the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of Maritime Accidents and on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers.
This close co-operation with ILO is yet another indication of our belief that decent working and living conditions on board ships are indispensable if the human element is to be able to play its fundamental role in ensuring a safe, secure, efficient and environmentally clean shipping industry.
In this spirit, we have been keen to support the recent Conventions adopted by ILO for both seafarers and fishers. The widespread ratification and the effective implementation of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, the Work in Fishing Convention and the Seafarers’ Identity Document are extremely important to securing the proper conditions for seafarers and fishers to render their services and they are clearly complementary to the work of IMO: indeed, the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention is widely recognized as the “fourth pillar” of international shipping regulation, alongside IMO’s SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW Conventions dealing, respectively, with safety of life, environmental protection and training matters.
Finally, let me add that it was very much with seafarers in mind that we have decided that next year’s World Maritime Day theme should be “Piracy: orchestrating the response”, which will enable us all to redouble our focus on this modern scourge and on how to orchestrate, on a worldwide basis, a decisive and effective response to this insidious challenge facing seafarers, fishers, passengers and international shipping in the 21st century.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I would like now to pass the floor to Mr. David Cockroft, General-Secretary of the ITF, to explain more about the Centre that we are here to launch.