The COVID-19 pandemic may have put a damper on the ‘Day of the Seafarer’ celebration (25th of June). Still, the well-worn expressions of love and concern for the men and women who work at sea have kept flowing. It is an annual act the International Maritime Organization wants everyone to get into — and many are complying. Amid the brouhaha, has anyone asked why the event is spearheaded by the IMO and not by the International Labour Organization (ILO)?

I first raised the point in my blog post of 24th June 2016, in which I asked:

Indeed, why not the ILO, the UN agency dealing with labour standards and promoting decent work for all women and men? Is it not the ILO that sanctified seamen’s rights through ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, and similar treaties that came before? What has the IMO got to do with the rights and welfare of seamen? (‘The anomaly of the Day of the Seafarer’)

All this probably wouldn’t matter if the IMO has shown genuine concern for seafarers. But it has not. Even now, ship officers are reeling under a training overload that is the direct result of IMO regulations. They are also having to deal with increased paper work whilst at sea — thanks or no thanks to the IMO.

What has the IMO actually done to make life less difficult for members of the merchant marine profession? It won’t even provide seafarers with free online access to the STCW and other IMO conventions, in contrast to the ILO free access policy on ILO protocols.

As things stand, the ‘Day of the Seafarer’ is an anomaly — no less so than if the celebration of Juneteenth ( Emancipation Day for African-Americans) were to be led by a white supremacist group. But let not such considerations spoil the fun. Let the sweet words flow.

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