The problem with tributes is that they can’t seem to avoid platitudes and motherhood statements. IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu’s video message, released ahead of the Day of the Seafarer 2012 on 25th June, is no exception. Yet, there’s something endearing about Mr Sekimizu’s 5-minute broadcast. This is partly because the man is amiable and wears a sincere expression on his face. More important, he reminds all of us about certain basic facts that we tend to forget or ignore altogether.
Mr Sekimizu starts by highlighting the importance of shipping and how the world’s 1.5 million seafarers continue to risk danger and endure loneliness to bring cargoes safely to their destination. “Without seafarers our lives cannot be sustained,” he says. “Yet to most of us seafarers are largely invisible.”
He goes on to urge shipowners to provide seafarers with comfortable accommodations, access to the internet and other facilities “that we all take for granted ashore.” He tells flag states to promote the fair treatment of seafarers and maritime and training institutions to provide effective crew training. He ends with a message to all young people to seriously consider seafaring as a profession as “it provides the chance to see the world and get paid for doing so.”
We shall forgive Mr Sekimizu for mouthing the well-worn slogan used by maritime schools, especially in the Philippines, to entice young men and women to become seafarers. Overall, he delivers a simple and clear message that makes seafarers a little more visible for once. He should also be congratulated for not using the expression “the human element”. The phrase, which has become part of maritime lingo, only adds to making seafarers invisible to the rest of humanity. ~Barista Uno
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