The myth of the invisible seafarers

DOTS logoIt’s interesting that IMO (International Maritime Organization) has picked ‘Faces of the Sea’ as its campaign theme for the Day of the Seafarer 2013. To spotlight ‘the human face of shipping,’ the UN agency has asked seafarers to share pictures of themselves on its social media channels. Well and good. As IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu himself said in his DOSF message last year: ‘To many of us, seafarers are largely invisible’. On the other hand, why talk of seafarers as faceless or invisible? It’s all a myth.

Seafarers are visible to their husbands, wives, daughters and sons though they may be a thousand miles away from home.

Seafarers are visible to visiting ship chaplains and union inspectors who board their ships to inquire about their condition and lend a helping hand or remedy an injustice on board.

Seafarers are visible to maritime artists and photographers who portray their individual characters and their human condition for all of humanity to see.

red-and-gold-peopleSeafarers are visible to manning agents who own beautiful houses, drive nice cars and dine in five-star hotels because of what they earn from the lads.

Seafarers are visible to lawyers who file wage claims on their behalf and grab a good chunk of any moneys collected.

Seafarers are visible to training centres where business thrives because of the amount of training that is forced upon seafarers.

Seafarers are visible to government people who issue them their certificates and ask for money in exchange for doing what’s supposed to be their job.

Seafarers are visible to the mass media every time a major accident occurs at sea and journalists have a field day chastising the erring captain and his subordinates.

No, seafarers are not invisible. They are so only to those who praise seafarers on the 25th of June but have no real empathy for them; to those who make rules for the seafaring profession but fail to see the real conditions on board ships; and to those who have turned seafarers into faceless entities with such fancy terms as ‘the human element‘. A million photographs on Facebook will not give sight to those who don’t want to see. ~Barista Uno

7 Replies to “The myth of the invisible seafarers”

  1. Capt. Ed Enos

    Seafarers are only “faceless” to the dubious shipowners that prefer to not think about the men and women who are employed by them, especially when mistreating the crews on their own ships. What other industry today still imprisons people at sea with no food, no paychecks, and abandons their responsibility as employers and owners when it doesn’t suit them? Shipowners still conveniently hide behind a facade of fake businesses, paper ownership, flag of convenience regulations (not), in spite of growing international regulations. Never mind piracy all over the world and how that issue affects thousands of crew members and their families. Piracy would not exist if European and Asian owners were being terrorized themselves directly and held hostage.

    Little will change in the future as long as the “bottom line” drives people searching for profit at the expense of third world crews hired to man decrepit ships on their “last voyage”. ‘Port State Control’ is largely successful in the US. But it never ceases to amaze me how the horrific stories of mistreated crews still exist even today, elsewhere in the world. Seafarers are real people, with real lives and real jobs. Most of us are proud of what we are and the profession we chose to be a part of. International owners need to step up and pressure their OWN peers and governments, too, and make a better effort to ensure the safety and well being of mariners all over the world. Faceless? No, not at all.

  2. Capt. Ardeshir Yousefi

    Nice post again, Barista. Let’s hope that one day we will have a real ‘Seafarer’s Day’ when there will be no suffering and ill treatment of the innocent. A day when humanity will be back in the shipping industry. A day when seafarers will believe it is THEIR day.


    Capt. Yousefi

  3. Andrew Craig-Bennett

    Well said, and absolutely right.

    One of the worst things to have happened has been the bureaucratisation of the relationship between the shipowner and the people on his or her ship. People work at sea for men and women whom they never see and who seem to take no interest in them or in their ship beyond spending the minimum and earning the maximum. This is simply lousy man management.

    I used to work for a man who made a point of taking a table at his Shipowners’ Association annual dinner and inviting all the Masters and Chief Engineers in his fleet who happened to be on leave and in the country at the time. It didn’t cost him much to do this, and the repayment in terms of motivation afloat was immense.

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