World Maritime Day 2010 Parallel Event
Friday, 8 October 2010
Unveiling of a Plaque in Honour of the Seafarer
Excellencies, Chief of the Argentine Navy, Commandant of the Prefectura Naval Argentina, Admirals, representatives of IMO Member States, distinguished guests and media representatives, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is wonderful to see so many members of the maritime community of Buenos Aires and, indeed, so many members of the general public here today as we gather to unveil this plaque to commemorate the seafarers of Argentina and from all over the world and to celebrate World Maritime Day 2010, the high point of the International Maritime Organization’s “Year of the Seafarer”. The presence here today of colleagues and friends from IMO Member States and the Secretariat adds to the splendour of the event.
It is hard to imagine a more worthy and appropriate setting for this ceremony, within hailing distance, as we are, of the sailing yachts in the marina, of the legendary corvette Uruguay (which has won such an iconic place in Argentina’s maritime history); of the equally legendary frigate Presidente Sarmiento, on board which so many Navy personnel and mariners were trained; and of two modern Coast Guard cutters of the Prefectura Naval Argentina, the GC-73 Cabo Corrientes and the GC-79 Rio Deseado.
In 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 challenging and hostile environment.
The 1.5 million seafarers of the 21st century face a wide range of challenges and a unique set of demands – which seem to be increasing almost daily both in scope and in severity.
As well as the natural hazards of the sea and the elements, with which they have to contend as a matter of course, they also face, in our uncertain times, exceptional hazards, such as pirate attacks, unwarranted detention and abandonment.
Yet, given the truly global nature of the modern world and its economy, it is doubtful whether seafaring has ever been such a pivotal profession as it is today. The lifestyles and, indeed, the very lives of billions of this planet’s inhabitants rely on this small, largely unsung and mostly unheralded workforce.
Shipping has always provided the only really cost-effective method of bulk transport over any great distance, and the development of shipping and the establishment of a global system of trade have moved forward together, hand in hand. Shipping, the industry we serve, underpins international commerce and the world economy and is by far the most efficient, safe and environmentally friendly method of transporting goods around the globe. We live in a global society, which is characterized by a strong element of inter-dependence and inter-connectivity and is supported by a global economy – and that economy simply could not function if it were not for ships and the seafarers that operate them.
Life for seafarers today has become more pressurized in almost every way than once it was. But the stresses they encounter today are more of a cerebral and, indeed, more of a social nature than physical. With crew numbers pared down to perhaps twelve or fifteen persons per ship, the sheer demands of work are immense. And, with so few people on board, a ship can be a lonely place during the off-duty hours.
But let us not paint too gloomy a picture. As many of you here will attest, despite the challenges it presents – or perhaps because of them – time spent at sea offers a series of enticing advantages and unique opportunities. The potential for good wages, early responsibility, opportunities to travel, good long-term career prospects, long holidays and the sense of doing something very different from just working in an office, have a universal and timeless appeal to many young people, men and women, who are making those crucial choices at the start of their careers.
Not only is seafaring a satisfying and worthwhile profession in itself, it is also, a passport to a huge variety of related jobs ashore for which experience at sea will make one eminently qualified.
The many dedicated professional seafarers who, having served their early years at sea, now hold positions as managers and superintendents in shipping companies, maritime pilots, vessel traffic service and rescue coordination centre operators, advisers to Ministers and executives in shipping-related activities (such as insurance companies and classification societies), or as professors and teachers at maritime academies and colleges, scattered throughout all parts of the industry, are shining examples of what can be achieved – not to mention those shipmasters and engineers who have become shipowners themselves.
The “Year of the Seafarer”, still ten months young, provides an excellent opportunity to reassure those who labour at the “sharp end” of the industry – the seafarers themselves – that those of us who work in other areas of the maritime community, and yet whose actions have such a bearing on seafarers’ everyday lives, understand the extreme pressures they face and approach our tasks with genuine interest and concern.
This year’s World Maritime Day theme has, therefore, constituted a focal point around which the maritime community as a whole has rallied, seeking ways to recognize and pay tribute to seafarers for their unique contribution to society and the vital part they play in the facilitation of global trade. The Parallel Event here in Argentina has been the focus for activities in this part of the world and the plaque that we shall unveil in a short while – an excellent demonstration of the host country’s affection and sensitivity for the workers of the sea – today will stand as a lasting and fitting tribute to seafarers everywhere. And I hope that, in future years, it will provide a catalyst for the annual celebration of the “Day of the Seafarer” on the 25th of June; it is important that seafarers are always remembered – not just in this, their special year.
At this ceremony, dedicated to seafarers the world over and the services they render to us all, let us rejoice that here, in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, we have joined together to manifest the respect, recognition and appreciation of the international community towards the contribution made, and the sacrifices suffered, by seafarers. It is, indeed, a fitting tribute – one of which we can all be immensely proud, as proud as Argentina should be for the initiative to arrange this special event as part of this year’s celebrations, for which we thank Her and all those who worked hard to make this a grand success and a memorable experience.
And each of us, fortunate enough to take part in this ceremony today, when, in the future, mention is made of this plaque, indeed this monument, and its symbolic character, will say with pride and emotion: “I was there!”
Ladies and gentlemen,