On 25 June every year, the Day of the Seafarer turns the spotlight on the contribution seafarers make to world trade. With the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the services they provide are more important than ever. Seafarers play an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as food, fuels and medical supplies, that people, everywhere, need.
The 2020 Day of the Seafarer pays tribute to unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic: the seafarers who continue to carry essential goods despite facing tremendous challenges, including being stranded on board. Organized by IMO, this year’s campaign calls on governments to take action and formally recognize seafarers as key workers and to provide them with the support, assistance and travel options open to all key workers during the pandemic.
The campaign also seeks to raise awareness of the sacrifice of seafarers and the issues they face. Travel restrictions have left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded at sea, unsure when they will be able to return home. Many are fatigued and weary because their time at sea has been extended for months beyond the maximum stipulated in international conventions.
In his Day of the Seafarer message, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim highlighted the unique and essential work of seafarers, who deliver 80% of global trade by volume.
He praised the dedication, professionalism and resilience of seafarers, at a time when many are unable to be repatriated or replaced by relief crews. The Secretary-General also emphasized the difficulties faced by seafarers, including denial of shore leave, difficulties in accessing medical care and, in some cases, the lack of personal protective equipment. “Despite all these challenges, seafarers have stayed on the job, 24/7,” Lim said.
“Just like other key workers, seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need – and deserve – quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during the pandemic, but at all times,” Lim insisted.
Sec-Gen Lim has written to all IMO Member States, urging them to recognize all seafarers as key workers.