We should stop this Day of the Seafarer nonsense once and for all. It patronises seamen, pays them lip service without conviction and does not even attempt to do anything to improve their lives. It is cynical and schizophrenic: what the Day of the Seafarer really promotes, every year, is a day where we hope that the rest of the world will appreciate commercial shipping. And a day when we propagate half-truths and show only one side of the coin in the hope that more youngsters will be lured into the profession.
It is an event about seamen but with seamen at the sidelines. It is not a commitment but a litany of platitudes; it needs to be stopped.
Even when it seeks input from seamen, the IMO- as the main organiser- wants to tell them what they should talk about. Speaking about their work and their daily lives are approved topics; no comment is sought, encouraged – and will not be published, I am sure- that even obliquely mentions the major issues that seamen face: fatigue, the cavalier treatment meted out to them by the industry, the corruption in the job market and such. Only clean linen must be washed, whether in public or in private. The ‘celebration’ of the Day of the Seafarer must stop before we do more damage by alienating more of our workforce, much of which sees through it all.
If shipping could think beyond the next quarter’s profit and loss statement, it would realise why its long-term health is critically dependent on the well-being of its seamen, and not just on their competence. If the industry were concerned about its crews, it would engage active seamen in dialogue and try to improve the widespread sorry state of affairs that marks their profession. But that it will not do; it is used to talking down to seamen, and the Day of the Seafarer does, once more, exactly that. It is yet another cop-out. We need to end this.
In any case, the IMO is primarily a regulatory body; it has no business addressing seamen- they are not its constituents. I will argue that the IMO should not even be involved in the promotion of commercial shipping. It is too stilted and too unimaginative to do so effectively. Its hashtag campaigns come across as unnatural and contrived, like an anorexic woman with silicone implants.
The appreciation of what seamen do is not a one-day awakening. That shipping would starve without them is so obvious that this does not have to be stated anyway; everybody knows this already. However, we have to think differently if we want more youngsters of calibre to come out to sea. We cannot hope to fool all of them into joining the profession (although we seem to be doing a pretty good job of that so far). The best- and the ethically correct- way of doing this is to treat existing seamen correctly, professionally and with dignity. To give them what is their due. To not short-change or diminish them every chance we get. To do what is right.
However, that requires more lateral thinking, commitment and integrity than we seem to be capable of. The ‘Day of the Seafarer’ is the easy way out.
Stop this farce.