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Day of the Seafarer and Filipino Seafarers Day event, MARINA, Manila, Philippines


Day of the Seafarer and Filipino Seafarers Day event
26 June 2016, Manila, Philippines
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here in the Philippines this weekend at what is such a special time for the maritime community in this country, and indeed for seafarers everywhere.

Today, we celebrate the official Day of the Seafarer, an event that was created in 2010 here in this very city and which is now celebrated all over the world as an official UN recognition day. In 2011, President Aquino also declared this as the day of Filipino seafarers; so we now have a joyous double celebration of those often unsung heroes who do so much for us all, and who play a particularly important role in society here in the Philippines.

The supply of human resource to the global shipping industry has an importance in the Philippines that is unique in the world. The most recent study of global manpower supply and demand for seafarers shows that this country is still the largest supplier of ratings to the industry; and in 2015 Filipino seafarers contributed some 5.6 billion US dollars to the country's economy.

So global shipping and the Philippines have something in common; both have a great deal to thank Filipino seafarers for. In the Philippines, most people have a direct connection with a seafarer. If you are not a seafarer yourself, you almost certainly have one among your family and friends.

So this is the day when we ask people everywhere to stop for a moment and take some time to think about how much we depend on seafarers to keep the wheels of the world in motion – and to show our gratitude and understanding of the positive contribution they make to our lives every single day.

In a world where the population has already risen past 7 billion and is still growing as we speak, global reliance on maritime transport to sustain life on earth has never been more complete. All over the world, an increasingly affluent population is fuelling a vigorous demand for consumer goods, food and the raw materials, commodities and fuels from which they are made.

If society as a whole is to continue developing and growing, if all of us are to continue to become more prosperous over successive generations, we need to make sure we use the most cost-effective, the most efficient and most environmentally sensitive way to deliver all those things we need. That means ships - and ships need seafarers.

These days, the level of skills and professionalism required to operate the sophisticated modern international fleet has reached unprecedented levels. And that, in turn, means that training and education for seafarers is more demanding and more important than ever before.

The international standards that govern seafarer competence and training are enshrined in the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention, and I cannot stress enough what an important contribution this instrument makes to maritime safety, and all that flows from it.

We are now entering the last six months of the transition period for the STCW 2010 Manila Amendments to take full effect. The deadline is 1st January 2017.

There is no doubt that meeting the exacting requirements of the 2010 Amendments has been a challenge, and one that has special significance in a country where seafaring has such an important role. I therefore welcome the assurance by our host today, MARINA, that all systems are in place and all systems are "go" for meeting the deadline of complying with STCW 2010 by the deadline date. This country has made a huge collective investment in maritime education and training over recent years and the number of highly advanced and specialized training facilities in the Philippines today shows how strongly committed you are to remaining the so-called "crewing capital of the world".

Implementing the amended STCW Convention has entailed unprecedented reform measures, and I am very pleased that IMO has been able to provide technical assistance to MARINA in achieving the necessary changes. I know that we stand ready to continue providing such assistance, if needed, in the future.

Looking ahead, the demand of the global fleet for manpower is increasing, and is predicted to rise still further. Attracting and retaining new seafarers, particularly officers, is a challenge. The investments you have made here in the training infrastructure will undoubtedly help. Shipping companies also need to ensure they have properly structured training and career development programmes in place, too; and the importance of women as a future source of seagoing human resource cannot be overstressed. The shipping world cannot afford to ignore such a rich and still largely untapped source of quality recruits.

Seafarer welfare must not be overlooked, either. Young people today have greater choice than ever before. To be attractive, shipping needs to ensure they can feel confident they are joining a profession in which they and their families will be looked after, cared for and adequately rewarded. If not, they will vote with their feet.

Despite all the great advances in technology and global connectivity, seafaring is still a difficult, demanding and potentially lonely job. On the Day of the Seafarer, everyone who is in a position to influence seafarer welfare should make a pledge to do something positive – and not just today, but every day.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by thanking you once again for inviting me to be here this weekend to share your nationwide celebrations of the Day of the Seafarer. I have said before that seafarers really are the "beating heart" of the shipping world. Here in the Philippines, that sentiment takes on a whole new dimension because seafarers really do have such a visible and tangible position in the national consciousness.

As you know, the theme for our campaign this year is "At Sea for All" which captures how important seafarers are to everyone on our planet – whether they realize it or not. Today, let us make sure that seafarers really do understand how much we value their contribution to our collective well being.

Thank you.