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“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye,” wrote Antoine de Saint Exupéry in his 1943 novel, The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince). Well, there are some things about seafarers’ rights that are quite visible to the eye but many fail to notice them or simpy refuse, for one reason or another, to acknowledge them. The following are plain truths about seafarers and how they are generally treated in the 21st century.

Seafarers lie at the very bottom of the maritime food chain.

The greater part of the exploitation of seafarers takes place on land, not on board ships.

ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 — the so-called ‘bill of rights’ for seafarers — lacks teeth and exists mainly to assuage the conscience of the shipping world.

Championing the rights and welfare of seafarers is a source of livelihood for many.

Most maritime charities think only of themselves and how they can attract more donations.

Slogans and buzzwords function to sugar-coat the way seafarers are really treated.

Ship manning is, for the most part, a dirty business in which seafarers are commodities for export.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has done absolutely nothing to alleviate the suffering of seafarers.

The IMO expects seafarers to comply with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Yet, unlike the ILO, it refuses to give free online access to the full text of the STCW and other IMO conventions.

No one wants to seriously address the training overload on seafarers because it’s all a lucrative business.

Seafarer unions like to see themselves as sacred cows to be respected by all and never criticised.

The maritime press becomes complicit in the crimes against seafarers every time it keeps silent on their exploitation.

~ Barista Uno

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