Today, 90% of world trade is carried by ship. Globally, there are over 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally and the total cargo capacity of the world merchant shipping fleet is 1.75 billion deadweight tonnes (DWT). The people responsible for maintaining, running and operating the fleet are seafarers.
Who are seafarers and what do they do?
There are over 1.6 million seafarers worldwide. The majority of seafarers originate from the Philippines, China, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Women make up just 2% of the workforce.
Seafarers leave their homes and families to earn money that can be sent home to their spouses, children, and parents. They are often away for nine to twelve months at a time. During these periods shore leave can be a rarity, as seafarers ensure that the essential items and commodities on which our lives depend arrive safely at our homes. Just look around your home to see the importance of what seafarers do. Chances are your television, your laptop, your fridge, your clothing and your car just to name a few items – were all brought to you by sea.
What is the Day of the Seafarer?
Sunday June 25th, 2017 marks the annual Day of the Seafarer. The purpose of the Day of the Seafarer is to recognize the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole. This year the Day of the Seafarer theme is ‘Seafarers Matter.’
For 2017, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) wants to engage ports and seafarer centres to demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them. The idea is for ports and seafarer centres to share and showcase best practices in seafarer support and welfare. As such, the IMO has created an interactive world map showcasing best practices in seafarer support and welfare. In Canada, the Mission to Seafarers centres in Halifax and Southern Ontario are recognized for providing recreation facilities, ship visits, free transports to and from shopping centres, and social justice advocacy. The Montreal Port Authority is also recognized for providing free WIFI on ships, as well as providing warm clothing throughout the winter holiday season to keep seafarers warm.
What can you do to help support seafarers?
On June 25th, the IMO requests that everyone:
- Raise awareness of seafarers
- Recognize the unique role they play and
- Highlight just how important seafarers are to everyone on the planet as they transport vital items all over the world.
- Share a story about seafarers on social media and use the hashtag #seafarersmatter
- Volunteer at your local mission to seafarers organization
- Donate to a Canadian mission to seafarers organization
- Contact your local port and ask what they are doing to celebrate!
Published June 19, 2017
Last modified on April 26, 2019