THE Day of the Seafarer is upon us for this year, and ships around the world are called upon to sound their horns for 15 seconds at 1200 local time.

The International Maritime Organization is running a survey. Seafarers are invited to answer questions on what a fair future for seafarers would be. More information can be found on the IMO website.

Australia is an island nation and is therefore dependent on shipping and the international and domestic seafarers that crew the ships.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said seafarers have been hit hard by the restrictions of the global pandemic which has caused unique difficulties and working conditions.

AMSA senior port marine surveyor Greg Collinson said, “With COVID-19, seafarers have faced some significant hurdles in being able to leave their vessels for a break ashore or repatriation home at the end of their sea service. It’s been a challenging and isolating experience for many”.

Mr Collinson is also the deputy chair of the Newcastle Port Seafarer Welfare Committee.

“If you’re in the Newcastle area, please show your support to seafarers and send them a wave all week long, starting Saturday 19 June,” he said

“By reaching out with a wave we can let seafarers know they are welcome and appreciated.”

Mr Collinson said Australia has one of the largest interests in international seaborne trade and seafarers play an essential role in the supply chain of goods on which we all depend.

“Australia is also one of the world’s largest bulk commodities exporter and ship more iron and aluminium ore than any other country on earth,” he said.

“Without seafarers, life as we know it here in Australia simply wouldn’t exist. So, let’s show them our support.”

Maritime Industry Australia is encouraging the Australian states and territories to recognise seafarers as key workers and to facilitate crews changing over.

MIAL said seafarers are not currently recognised as key workers by the Australian government, and there continues to be extreme challenges in conducting crew changes for domestic and international seafarers. Ensuring timely and efficient crew changes is critically important to seafarer wellbeing and the safe operation of vessels.

MIAL has been advocating on behalf of the Australian maritime industry throughout this difficult period to highlight to government the particular and unique challenges faced. MIAL is concerned that despite strong calls from the IMO, the International Labour Organization and the UN General Assembly, the Australian government has not joined other IMO member states in designating seafarers as key workers.

In March, MIAL and Hunterlink undertook an Australian seafarer welfare survey. The results indicated that:

  • the majority of Australian seafarers (65%) reported feeling less valued by their government now compared with before COVID-19, with 39% of respondents indicating they felt much less valued, and
  • the seafarers indicated that designating them as essential workers would enhance their sense of value.

MIAL CEO Teresa Lloyd said while “it would be valuable for the federal government to declare seafarers as key workers, Australia’s complex border system means that it is the state governments and territories who we call upon to declare seafarers’ as key workers.

“They must recognise the value and sacrifice seafarers have continued to make throughout COVID-19 allowing Australians to sustain their lifestyle during a global pandemic.”

The day of the Seafarer was first celebrated in 2011 and has since been included in the annual list of United Nations Observances.