The Current, NMI Blog, Northeast Maritime Institute Blog


The Value of Seafarers

The screen you are currently reading this text on, was brought to you by many people you don’t know and have never seen.


We are all interconnected. Not only by the internet, but also as human beings. We share the same earth, air and water. We all see the same sun rise every day. And we need each other. We need to love and feel each other in order to survive. Without that, we are not even human.

We share so much and we have so much to give. Let’s start using the connection we have as humans to share good things.

The pandemic is not over, but something has changed. Every person on earth has felt vulnerable, maybe even alone.

What if we can use the lessons that this pandemic is teaching us for the better? What if we can use that collective feeling of vulnerability to change the world forever?

The screen you are holding in your hands was brought to you by a ship. It made a voyage across the earth to benefit and entertain you. It was safely transported by the many seafarers that serve us all. What if you could feel what they are feeling? Would you feel trapped if you were not allowed to leave your ship or communicate with the people you love?

Mariners make distant voyages, have long working days and work hard. They chose a life at sea, but they didn’t choose the pandemic. These mariners are as vulnerable as we all are. They have feelings and families like we all have. They can get sick and tired like we all can.

They deserve our respect and they deserve to be valued and cared about, like we all deserve to be.

We have to do a better job to serve them, since they readily serve us.

Only a few countries in the world have designated seafarers as key workers. All aspects of the Maritime Labour Convention have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. The terrible injustice and lack of a unified global commitment to uphold a seafarer’s basic human rights is evident. We should protect maritime workers in a better way.

In order to realize positive change, we urge all parties to take a holistic approach in finding solutions.

People are the key to change. We need to provide the mariners and seafarers of this world some real changes.

Seafarers are working around the clock. Ships, offshore platforms, barges, rigs, fishing vessels, tugs, yachts and other vessels are not operable without humans. Even during the pandemic, the world keeps on turning. Ships will not move without seafarers, though – we need them. And we need to value them.

Because they are invisible to most of us, we have to do our best to not forget about them.

During the pandemic, many seafarers have been stuck on board. Travel restrictions have prevented them from flying home. Strict border policies have prevented them from even stepping on land. Too many mariners have been locked on a ship for too long. Basic human rights and basic labor rights have been violated.

What if we can use the lessons that this pandemic is teaching us for the better? What if we can use that collective feeling of vulnerability to change the world forever? What about the banana you are eating, or the screen you currently are looking at? How was it brought to you? Where was is made or grown? It was likely brought to you by a cargo ship. These goods made a voyage across the earth to serve you, feed you and entertain you. They were accompanied by many people too.

The pandemic might have locked us down, but it also opened us up, showing us new perspectives. Please let me show you mine.

I have been pointing at the sea for as long as I can remember. During the years I worked on board large container vessels as a maritime officer, I observed some things I will never forget. The ocean showed me how tiny a person is. The stars showed me how guided we are. The exhaust gasses showed me how precious clean air is. Starting a main engine as big as an apartment building showed me how capable humans are as inventors of mechanics and discoverers of science. The people on board showed me how inventive solutions make a difference and can save the day. The teamwork at sea showed me how strong we can be as a collective. Spending time at sea builds character.

In my perspective, there is no better working environment than on the ocean.

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