Seeking to increase visibility of seafarers

- Sriti Devadiga

IMO has chosen to make 2021 a year of action for seafarers, who are facing unprecedented hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite their vital role as key workers for global supply chains. The World Maritime Day theme for 2021 – Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future seeks to increase the visibility of seafarers by drawing attention to the invaluable role they play now and will continue to play in the future. To celebrate the World Maritime Day, NMDC committee hosted a virtual celebration on 28th September.

Gracing the celebration, Mr Atul Ubale, Director (B&T), SCI said, “This year’s theme is aimed to focus and address issues related to human element of shipping including safety and security of life onboard ships, seafarers’ well-being and the importance of ensuring an appropriately trained and qualified workforce is ready to meet challenges and opportunities of digitalization and automation in shipping industry in future.”

He further added, “There are a lot of initiatives taken by the ministry to increase the pool of Indian seafarers from its current 2.5 lakhs to over 5 lakhs by 2030. These initiatives include creating special fund for seafarers, opening of wellness centres across major ports in India, enhancement of quality of training etc.”

The celebration witnessed seafarers taking the centre stage to discuss issues and challenges they face.

Capt Soumyojit Sengupta, Master, Anglo Eastern Ship Management spoke that the maritime authorities and global regulators should take small but significant steps in the right direction to help restore seafarers’ confidence in shipping and ensure that seafarers are truly the core of shipping’s future. “Considering the huge expanse of shipping, expecting overnight miracles would be wrong,” he shared.

Marine environment and seafarers are the most connected sections of the shipping world, opined Ms Deepali Kulkarni, sailing with Teekay Tankers. “In order to comply with all IMO regulations and protocols, seafarers are at the execution part of it. Shipping will become autonomous in the future. This would mean less or no crew onboard. But protecting marine environment is pivotal – be it with or without seafarers onboard. If embracing new technology is a way to go about it then it should be adopted without any second thoughts,” she believes.

Speaking on the importance of shipping, Mr Surajit Misro, Chief Engineer, Fleet Management said, “It’s important to ensure the overall safety and well-being of the seafarers be it regards to their training, onboard equipment, medical service availability, quick emergency evacuation, or be it as simple as rest hours, wages and psychological stress relieve. It is important for the global shipping associations and unions to join hands to reinitiate the trust of the seafarers in shipping. The COVID crisis has been hardest on seafarers, and it took time for the globe to recognise us as the frontline workers despite being the backbone of trade and supply of essential commodities. Safety has been, is and will always remain utmost priority. It is important to spread awareness about role of seafarers to global governments for us to have the trust that be whatever circumstance we will have the back of maritime authorities.”

The session also witnessed the topic of gender equality being discussed by Ms Nitu Singh, sailing from The Shipping Corporation of India Limited. “It is now the time to overlook the prejudice and male dominance the industry has been witnessing for generations. I appeal to companies across the world to pave way for including women and other diverse group as a part of the organizations.

There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Gender equality has better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”

Also speaking the seafarers on the occasion was, Mr Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) who spoke on the issues seafarers are facing and the challenges they combatted during the unprecedented Covid crisis.

“There is a need to make the industry workings more transparent, more accountable but also more attractive. India has a lot of potential. ITF will be a part of this challenging journey to make the world but also make sure that the seafarers and transport workers are appreciated for their contribution.”

Also elaborating on the Directorate General of Shipping and the Ministry of Shipping’s initiatives towards seafarers’ welfare was Mr Amitabh Kumar, Director General of Shipping. He has been the silver lining and the only ray of hope for seafarers during the COVID crisis when seafarers faced innumerable challenges.

(Courtesy: Marex Media)

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