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Six bold ways to boost the rights of seafarers

In his splendid 1922 book, All About Coffee. William H. Ukers wrote: “(Coffee) acts upon the nervous system as a powerful cerebro-spinal stimulant, increasing mental activity and quickening the power of perception, thus making the thoughts more precise and clear…” Given how seafarers’ rights continue to be routinely violated, the campaign to promote these rights needs a similar stimulant — a strong push, a fillip. The following are six ways that should help achieve this goal.

Remembering stranded seafarers through poetry

The thought of seafarers stranded by the thousands because of the COVID-19 pandemic makes me hark back to a poem in Spanish entitled ‘Perdón si por mis ojos’. It was written by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973), winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature. I am delighted to share this powerful poem together with my English translation. Neruda describes the inner life of the seafarer against a backdrop of water, rock and seaweed.

Day of the Seafarer: Empty tributes amid COVID-19

he coronavirus is deadly but not deadly enough to curtail maritime sloganeering. Paeans to seafarers are once again pouring out in the lead-up to the ‘Day of the Seafarer’ (25th June).

As usual, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is leading the chorus. The theme it has chosen for this year’s celebration is #SeafarersAreKeyWorkers. The hashtag signifies that the IMO expects the message to spread like a virus on social media and sundry places in the internet.

The top 5 reasons seafarers are easily exploited

A great deal has been written about how seafarers’ rights are being violated. Much less is said about why such violations are still common in this day and age when cries for human rights can be heard everywhere. The reasons are really not hard to understand. Listed below are the top five factors behind the continued exploitation of seafarers.

The impact of COVID-19 on seafarers’ rights

As the novel coronavirus marches on, the global shipping community is hailing seafarers as the “Unsung Heroes of Global Trade”. The slogan sounds nice but hollow. In fact, it is downright disingenuous.

How can the words ring true when thousands of seafarers have been stranded in foreign ports and harbours because of COVID-19? That the problem exists on such a scale shows how the maritime world really regards the men and women who toil at sea: they are commodities.

8 special memes for seafarers in this time of pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is a dark time for the entire world. Even so, it has served to highlight the true state of seafarers’ rights — minus the rhetoric and euphemisms the shipping industry loves to use. The following memes contain some of my personal views on the subject in light of COVID-19. I have created them especialy for seafarers to share with others.

Labour Day tribute to child workers in lieu of seafarers

With so much din and clamour over seafarers’ rights, many people could be forgetting that the exploitation of child is a far greater problem. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 152 million are victims of child labour worldwide (see the ILO facts and figures here). The following 19th-century paintings should serve as a Labour Day reminder of this ugly ever-present reality.

Baduanjin: A beautiful Chinese exercise (by the sea)

Many years ago, I learned about Baduanjin (also known as Eight Pieces of Brocade), a Chinese qigong exercise whose origins go back to the 11th century, during the Song Dynasty. The term qigong consists of the characters “qi” (vital energy or spirit) and “gong” (cultivation or mastery). Baduanjin is easy to learn. Probably the best place for performing the exercise is by the sea, but it can done anywhere that is quiet and comfortable.

A seafarer’s short guide to choosing a manning agency

There are good and bad manning agencies, but I personally would rather have a hiring hall do the crew selection and deployment. I have seen enough in maritime Manila to say that crewing companies are a necessary evil. But they are not going away anytime soon. The best that seafarers can do is be discerning enough to deal only with the decent ones — definitely not an easy task if there are so many to choose from.

12 simple ways seafarers can protect their rights

It is not always easy for seafarers to assert their rights. The mere act of complaining (even on social media) may put them in disfavour with manning agents, ship masters, and others in authority. Reporting non-payment of wages and other abuses to the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) could get them blacklisted.