Seafarer voices were front and centre on IMO's World Maritime Day, with an all-seafarer panel discussing a number of issues relating to this year's theme of 'Seafarers at the core of shipping's future'. The event saw port captain Ayse Basak, ordinary seamen Yrhen Balins, and ship captains Marwa El Selehdar and Thomas Madsen share their views on topics that they see as important to the future of the industry and their careers.

"This event puts seafarers where they rightfully should be – at the centre of our focus," IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said in his welcome speech, reminding listeners that he also comes from a seafaring background. "I believe this may be the first time we have hosted this kind of panel comprised solely of seafarers – but I truly believe it will not be the last. We must listen and we must learn."

Moderated by IMO's Director, Legal and External Affairs, Frederick Kenney, also a former-seafarer, the panelists addressed topics such as crew change, diversity, the environment and safety and made strong statements about how they would like their futures shaped.

Referring to  the crew change crisis,  Yrhen Balinis argued that the industry and seafarers themselves need to "stop romanticising resilience" and remember that seafarers are human beings. "We don't have to stay longer than our contracts and suffer silently waiting for this crew change crisis to unravel itself," he said.

Thomas Madsen highlighted the importance of leadership in creating a good working culture. "Leaders have to show the way and continuously and proactively communicate rules and values that will ensure an inclusive environment on board, i.e. everybody in the same room speaks the same language, harassment or bullying will not be accepted. And they have to lead by example and walk the talk themselves," he emphasized.

Addressing the topic of the environment and how shipping can journey towards being carbon neutral, Marwa El Selehdar said that "as any vessel being put into operation by 2030 is likely to be operating for at least 12 to 15 years, the only way to meet the regulatory goals is to have zero emissions vessels."

Ayse Basak was particularly passionate when talking about safety, pointing out that "together with technology, we need to focus on human factors to make the working environment safer for all seafarers. A safe working environment does not only refer to technical aspects, it also applies to safe behavior in order to create safe working environment."

Questions posed to the seafarers from an audience of more than 400 people from around the globe spurred discussions on what it means to be a seafarer, what regulations the panelists would change and more.

To watch a recording of the webinar, please click here:

To read the profiles of the seafarers on the webinar, please visit IMO's World Maritime Day page.