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Investing on our seafarers' well-being

Investing on our seafarers' well-being
Ambassador Carlos Salinas April 14, 2022

Last April 9 was the Day of Valor in the Philippines, a day of remembering our heroes who gave up their lives for our freedom, and of giving recognition and showing gratitude to our modern-day heroes who make daily sacrifices to make our lives better.

Malacañang has turned the spotlight on these present-day heroes during this year's observance of the Day of Valor. They include, but are not limited to, "medical and health care professionals, farmers, government workers, and officials, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and frontliners from the foodservice, transportation, and other essential sectors."

Our seafarers, as part of the transportation sector, are considered the most important component of the maritime value chain and continue to serve nonstop and perform their vital role in world trade.

The occupational risks of seafaring even on a regular basis are tremendous even in the best of times, and become even more overwhelming and staggering in trying times, like during a pandemic and in the midst of war.

This is why the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labor Organization (ILO), concerned over the safety and well-being of seafarers in Ukrainian ports and nearby waters, recently called for urgent action to protect stranded seafarers and vessels adversely affected by the Russian invasion.

An estimated 1,000 seafarers are currently stuck in Ukrainian ports and nearby waters with dwindling food, fuel, freshwater, and other vital supplies.

In a joint letter to the heads of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim describe the dire condition of seafarers on more than 100 stranded trading vessels. Their situation is becoming increasingly untenable by the day, putting their health and well-being at risk.

The letter asks the three agencies to assist in replenishing the vital supplies needed by the seafarers onboard the ships concerned. The move by the ILO and IMO came on the heels of urgent communications sent by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

It will be remembered that in March, the Philippines voted to support a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine and demanding that Russia "immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders."

In this regard, we welcome the news that the Seafarers' Human Sustainability Declaration was recently launched by maritime medical services provider Vikand Solutions LLC and other maritime stakeholders in Oslo.

The declaration aims to welcome discussions and insights on how the global maritime community can better meet the human sustainability needs of seafarers.

"Our goal is to develop a global platform for sustainable seafaring to ensure the future commercial viability of the maritime industry," said Vikand CEO Peter Hult, during the launching. "We want to encourage dialogue around the principles of seafarer wellbeing so that the maritime industry can develop and adopt best practices for those working at sea and their loved ones back home."

It is only right that the concept of Human Sustainability must not be limited to seafarers but extend to those they leave behind at home. Seafaring families must have peace of mind and a sense of security while their loved ones are at sea for extended periods of time. This is the best way to "future proof" the maritime sector.

"Only by working together as maritime colleagues can we start to make long-lasting improvements to the overall welfare and well-being of our seafarers which in turn will safeguard the future viability of the shipping industry," Hult added.

The Seafarer Human Sustainability Declaration is founded on the belief that achieving long-term sustainability for commercial maritime business lies in the industry's investing in the sustainability of the seafarers themselves, its most critical resource.

This Seafarer Human Sustainability Declaration covers a wide range of principles designed to incrementally improve every category of life for both seafarers and their loved ones at home. This will surely have a profound impact on the long-term health of our maritime workforce.

Moreover, this declaration aligns with many objectives set forth in the UN Sustainable Development Goals – a global policy initiative that includes provisions for good health and well-being, gender equality, quality education, and affordable and clean energy.

While we are on the subject of investing, let us remember to observe Earth Day on April 22. The theme this year is "Invest on Our Planet." Let us all join hands and do our part in seeking and implementing solutions to combat climate change, the greatest threat to the only home we have.