Seafarers are key workers

Seafarers are key workers

Obiageli Chuma-Ugbo

Grace Hopper once said “A ship in port is safe but that is not what ships are built for”. By this, it means a ship must constantly navigate through the sea to meet the purpose she was built for.




The ship is built to move a large percentage of goods across the globe and findings have emerged that without shipping the world would not have been as connected as it is, currently.

The most important thought that comes to mind when a keel for a ship is about to be laid is the crew that would man the ship. Because they are the ones who would ensure the ship sails through all the kinds of weather in fact they weather the storms together and it is through their expertise that the ship manoeuvres through everything it experiences. Sadly, these seafarers sometimes lose their lives in a bid to make the world more enjoyable.

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Though people in maritime know that the most important asset in shipping are the human element, however the world has never felt how important these set of professionals are until the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe.

It should be noted that the world was not prepared for the outbreak of the pandemic so many countries decided to shut all businesses. Flights were grounded and a lot of industries were seen as not essential but the Shipping chain remained, albeit with a lot of regulations to contribute its own quota to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

25th of June annually is the Day of The Seafarer (DoTS), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set this day aside to recognize the invaluable contribution seafarers make to international trade and world economy, often at a great personal cost to themselves and their families.

DoTS was first celebrated in 2011, following its establishment by a resolution adopted by parties to the STCW during their conference held in Manila, Phillippines in June 2010, which adopted major revisions to the Convention and Code.

Technically, this is the 10th anniversary of the celebration and the IMO has chosen the theme “Seafarers are Key Workers”. According to the United Nations Organ, Seafarers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as food, medicines and medical supplies. However, the crisis has led to difficult working conditions for seafarers, including uncertainties and difficulties about port access, re-supply, crew changeovers and repatriation.

Who would not know how important these people are. Should they not be celebrated alongside the health workers as the MVPs of this generation. Without them majority of the drugs and food supplies would not even reached its destination. It is important to note that majority of the economies would have been shut down were it not be for shipping because the world did not prepare for the impact of the pandemic.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim recently issued a moving personal message to seafarers everywhere, assuring them that IMO understands the unique problems they face during the coronavirus pandemic and has been working tirelessly at all levels to find solutions for them. The message tagged “you are not alone” also highlighted the fact that a lot of seafarers face the challenges of repatriation to their home countries and bases during the pandemic because of travel restrictions which also made crew change extremely difficult.

It is important to note that back home, the period of COVID-19 also coincided with the appointment of Dr. Bashir Jamoh as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) by President Muhammadu Buhari. What else would test a budding administration than the Pandemic. However the handling of the pandemic by the NIMASA DG has revealed that he is the round peg in the round hole.

He continuously issued guidelines on Seafarers welfare. Some of which included extension of their certificates and other trading certificates which would not put their jobs in jeopardy. Under Jamoh’s watch during the pandemic the maritime administration also issued guidelines for crew change and as well informing the people that it concerns that Seafarers are essential workers and they must be given free movement as they are the ones that keep our economy going.

Truly Seafarers are key workers they must be celebrated and by the 25th of June either virtually or by selection of few people to fill a hall in honour of this great people we must celebrate them.

Obiageli Chuma-Ugbo is an Assistant Chief Public Relations Officer with NIMASA



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