On Day of the Seafarer, IMO Emphasizes Safety and Security

AMSOL photo of seafarers on a ship
Image courtesy AMSOL

Published Jun 24, 2024 8:42 PM by The Maritime Executive


Each year on June 25, the global maritime community pauses to celebrate seafarers, who deliver 90 percent of all international trade. Seafarers work around the clock in a challenging industrial environment, and they leave their families for up to a year at a time in pursuit of their career. They give up the regular working hours and amenities that their shoreside peers are used to, receiving in return a better paycheck and the opportunity to travel. Without the two million men and women who work at sea, the maritime industry would not exist, and the global economy would lose steam. 

"Seafarers from across the globe provide a vital source of income to their families back home, while on long voyages at sea.  Let us together salute them for their essential work and support their safety," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a statement. "Without them, the world would not be able to transport the large quantities of commodities that societies require to survive."

Guterres also called for an end to the "grave threats" that seafarers face near the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, where hijackings and Houthi missile attacks have endangered the lives of dozens since last fall. The IMO says that four seafarers have died in Houthi strikes, and many others have been injured. 

"Attacks on international shipping routes and acts of piracy are unacceptable," he said. "Ships and seafarers must not be held hostage and hijacked. Seafarers should not be collateral victims in wider geopolitical conflicts."

IMO also called for the immediate release of the crew of the car carrier Galaxy Leader, who have been held captive by Houthi forces for more than eight months. 

Safety in focus

The IMO has dedicated this year's Day of the Seafarer to the theme of safety. To raise awareness, IMO has launched a social media hashtag campaign focusing on safety at sea, and seafarers are invited to share photos and tips with the tag #SafetyTipsAtSea on the social network of their preference. 

The organization shared a sample tip from Filipino seafarer Yrhen Bernard Sabanal Balinis, who emphasized good communication. "Whether it be anchoring, pilot boarding, or mooring, the officers need keen situational awareness to ensure that things are running safely," advised Balinis. "But effective shipboard communication is not only limited to those. Is a crewmate feeling down, homesick, or anxious? . . . Tactful communication plays an instrumental role in seafarers' psychological safety."

Looking to the future, Rene Kofod-Olsen - CEO of the world's largest third-party shipmanager, V.Group - called for preparing seafarers for the next generation of fuels and technologies. 

"We must keep developing them with an eye on what comes next. Complexity in our industry is increasing, and the challenges of decarbonization and digitalization will need more training and upskilling to manage properly," said Kofod-Olsen. "We must do this while keeping seafarer safety at the front of our minds, and be uncompromising in the standards that we set across the whole maritime value chain."