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Ambassador Carlos Salinas: A fair future for seafarers

A fair future for seafarers
Ambassador Carlos Salinas July 7, 2021

The maritime world recently observed the Day of the Seafarer. This occasion, held annually on June 25, raises global awareness of the contribution of seafarers to world trade. As we wend our way cautiously through the pandemic to a better normal, we should recognize the efforts of our seafarers to continue keeping the supply chain open in the face of challenging conditions.

In his message on the Day of the Seafarer, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, "Our 2021 Day of the Seafarer campaign builds on the progress to support seafarers on pandemic-related challenges. It aims to draw global attention to all areas where fairness is important. This includes a safe, secure environment on ships, reasonable working conditions, fair treatment in all situations, as well as respect for the rights of all - regardless of race, gender and religion."​

It is only fitting that the theme for IMO's 2021 Day of the Seafarer is "A Fair Future for Seafarers."

And there is no better time to shape a fair future than today. Through the years, the shipping industry has had to deal with various issues, which under the pandemic have even intensified and gained strength. Peter Armstrong recently reported on CBC News about Filipino Second officer Rolly Pague, who was one of the seafarers stranded on board a shipping vessel for months after his contract ended. He and hundreds of thousands of seafarers like him had to continue meeting growing demands for goods, delivering fertilizer, grains, coal, and aluminum to ports all over Europe, South America, and the U.S., while COVID-19 raged. Travel restrictions made it difficult for them to get off the ships and onto dry land.

Fortunately, after 11 months, Pague's sacrifice paid off, through the efforts of the International Transport Workers Federation. As his ship approached the port of Vancouver, Pague was met with the news that he'd finally be able to leave the ship and eventually head home to see his wife and kids.

"To be honest, I felt so relieved and happy. When you get off that gangway and look up at the ship, all your responsibilities, everything is gone," he said. "I'm just so happy... I want to hug my children. I want to see my family."

Yes, Covid-19 has adversely affected everyone we know. And yet most of us have had the good fortune to be able to stay home with our families during the lockdown. Seafarers do not have that privilege. Let us take a moment to recognize and appreciate the many things that seafarers had to give up to continue meeting our needs.

This poem, written by Chad Christopher Jordan to mark Day of the Seafarer 2021, is a most touching way to give honor to seafarers:

"This is the life you've never seen:

The life of the seafarer that has so much for you and me, a provider of the essential commodities that we need, a connector of the global economy.

Even throughout the difficulties of Covid-19, seafarers have kept working tirelessly like a machine.

They are the reason we have a table where we can eat a bed where we can sleep or a couch where we can relax while watching TV.

Yet much of what they do feels unseen.

This is why we need to make the world more aware and share how crucial our seafarers are, to gain more of the world's support and care.

So this day of the seafarer, take some time to recognize our mariners and help uplift their voices in promoting a fair future."

On this note, I express my heartfelt gratitude to global maritime professionals all over the world for the most important role that you play across the seven seas to sustain global trade which in turn, benefits our daily lives.

I am particularly moved as I salute our Filipino global maritime professionals, for their exemplary performance and sacrifice over the last year, in the most trying of circumstances. The Philippines stands proud as Filipinos continue to be the world's seafarers of choice. Thank you for being shining examples of our country's steadfast commitment to help move the world through shipping.