Officials from the Union attended an event at the International Maritime Organisation’s headquarters to kick off the initiative, which aims to highlight the vital role played by ships’ crews in the movement of global trade.
The launch was timed to coincide with the start of a week of IMO talks on the revision of the STCW Convention — which will address issues including training, fatigue and health and safety. Last month’s discussions aimed to sort out key elements of the new STCW Code ahead of its proposed adoption at a top-level diplomatic conference in June.
General secretary Mark Dickinson has written to the IMO to offer the Union’s full support ‘for this important initiative’ and to promote the core messages of the Year of the Seafarer campaign.
Measures to safeguard seafarers’ rights, protect against criminalisation, and to reduce excessive working hours are essential, he added.
‘One of the best ways in which we can make this year one to remember is to persuade more countries to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention so that it can come into force next year and start delivering the decent work, safeguards and protection that so many seafarers are still denied,’ Mr Dickinson pointed out.
Speaking at the launch event, IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos quoted Winston Churchill to underline the significance of the work done by the world’s 1.5m seafarers in moving more than 90% of global trade — ‘Never has so much been owed by so many to so few,’ he stressed.
Mr Mitropoulos said Year of the Seafarer aims to ‘reassure those working at the sharp end of the industry that those responsible for the international regulatory regime and those who serve shipping from ashore understand the extreme pressures that seafarers face’.
He said the year will include special events to promote maritime training and welfare, and to raise public and political awareness of the importance of seafarers in the daily lives of society around the world.
A former seafarer himself, Mr Mitropoulos said he believed shipping continues to offer ‘a potentially exciting, rewarding and fulfilling career — a career that can take people almost anywhere, both in geographical terms and in terms of the sort of work they may finally find themselves doing’.
But, he warned: ‘If shipping is to continue to serve global trade while maintaining and improving safety standards, it cannot afford to ignore the worldwide shortage of good entrants to the industry.’
Jon Whitlow, head of the International Transport Workers’ Federation seafarers’ section, said the ITF welcomed the decision to stage Year of the Seafarer — but warned that seafarers expect it to be ‘more than kind words’.
Speaking at the launch, he pointed out: ‘The last few years have been difficult for seafarers, and the morale of the profession has fallen as a result.’
Problems such as piracy, criminalisation, denial of shore leave and fatigue continue to plague the industry, said Mr Whitlow. ‘Civil society does not appreciate the contribution seafarers make to the global economy and generally views seafarers in a negative manner. All of this needs to change.’
Mr Whitlow said the ITF would mark Year of the Seafarer by establishing a new Academy for Seafarers’ Rights later this year. Due to open on World Maritime Day, the centre will focus on education, training and research into seafarers’ law, rights and remedies and will provide strategic legal support on campaigns and projects to protect their rights.
‘We consider that the academy is a much-needed resource within the international maritime industry that can be used by seafarers, the worldwide maritime trade union movement, and other stakeholders working with and for seafarers,’ he added.
International Shipping Federation president Spyros Polemis told the launch event that owners will actively support the IMO initiative ‘to ensure we have sufficient seafarers, properly trained, and who are given the proper respect for the professional and important job which they do on behalf of society as a whole’.
Loe lisaks IMO kodulehelt.

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