• Saturday, Jul 20, 2019
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Moving from empowerment to action

  • Published at 12:02 am June 25th, 2019
Ship Sail
Day of the Seafarers BIGSTOCK

A tribute to the mariners

Shipping is the most ancient mode of transportation. Almost everything that we use and need in our daily lives is directly or indirectly impacted by sea transport. More than 80% of global trade is transported by ships to people and communities all over the world, making seafarers essential to our daily lives as they are responsible for the safe and smooth operations of ships. Over the decades they are serving the seas to keep the world economy running, to serve the society.

There are myths about the life of mariners. Bermuda triangle, pirates of the Caribbean and so many. But to be a true “son of the sea” one must be brave enough to conquer all the fears -- both mentally and physically. Homesickness, adverse weather, waves of the seas merely make any mariner shy or fear. 

The ancient mariners fought the sea with very limited technology but with their wisdom. We must not forget Columbus and Vasco da Gama. But modern shipping is a lot more different than previous years. It has been transformed by advanced science and technology.

The Day of the Seafarer, an annual and international event day coordinated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in an aim to let the world know how and why seafarers are indispensable to everyone. It is to recognize the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.

The Day of the Seafarer was established in 2010 at a diplomatic conference in Manila by amending the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) that aimed to recognize the contribution by seafarers to society and economy globally. 

The day encourages official conversation about seafarers and seafaring, the well-being of those involved in it, and interactive media relating to the Day of the Seafarer which has proven extremely popular around the world.

The day recognizes the unique and vital role of seafarers in the global community, and the UN recognize the Day of the Seafarer as an observance day. On Day of the Seafarer, celebrated on June, 25, we take a moment to express our thanks to the World’s 16 million seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships for their contribution to the world economy. 

The theme of 2019 Day of the Seafarer, “Empowering Women In The Maritime Community,” aims to emphasize the importance and value of the women within the professional ranks.

In Bangladesh, the number of seafarers is merely 20,000-25,000 and the number of female seafarers may not be more than 100. Though the country has a very high potential to be a strong maritime professional’s hub, due to lack of government patronization and monitoring we are losing the world’s most highly paid skilled manpower market. 

The country is still at a very early stage to empower women in this sector. To keep pace with the other maritime nations, Bangladesh must have strong regulatory bodies to ensure safe and standard workplaces for everyone. 

All over the world mariners are used to getting special “on arrival” visa. Unluckily, Bangladeshi seafarers are not allowed to enjoy the facility. Due to our diplomatic failure, we are losing a lucrative market which could easily be our main skilled manpower market. 

Bangladeshi mariners are facing a lot of difficulties in airports and immigration which is rare for the other nationalities. To explore the vast sea areas of Bangladesh there is no alternative but to build up skilled maritime professionals. The day is to make every stakeholder aware of the rights of seafarers irrespective of gender.

International Maritime Authority and other regulatory bodies are trying to facilitate all the seafarers through MLC (maritime labour convention) 2006. Bangladeshi seafarers could rarely have dreamed of that. 

It is the duty of our maritime administration to make all the process hassle-free so that they can enjoy their vacation enthusiastically. The social welfare of the seafarers has always been ignored. Bangladeshi mariners have a good reputation all over the world. It is time to utilize their experience to explore our ocean and build a strong maritime nation.

On the occasion of world seafarer’s day, the concerned authority should have a look at the current situation of maritime professionals relating to the important issues surrounding the work of seafarers, including working and living conditions, shore leave, abandonment, criminalization, piracy, the risks they face at sea, and gender equality. 

To keep the world trade running, to ensure the sustainability of national and world economy, the contribution of seafarers cannot be underestimated. The MLC, 2006, as amended is intended to ensure the standard living condition and decent workplace for seafarers irrespective of nation and gender. 

Bangladesh maritime administration should also work along with the various international stakeholders to ensure seafarers wellbeing. It is time to give back some privilege to those who have always been working behind the scenes to keep us smiling. They are the unsung heroes. 

Maklub Al Mostofa is a professional merchant marine engineer.