The APA (Amercian Pschological Association) Dictionary of Psychology defines empathy as “understanding a person from his or her frame of reference rather than one’s own, or vicariously experiencing that person’s feelings, perceptions, and thoughts.” Clearly, there should be empathy if seafarers are to be treated more kindly by those who profit from them. So why is this word not used more often by advocates of seafarers’ rights?

I searched the websites of five seafarer charities to find out how many times the word “empathy” is mentioned. This is what I discovered:

Human Rights at Sea: 2 instances

Stella Maris: 2

International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN): 1

The Seamen’s Church Institute: 1

The Mission to Seafarers: 0

I will leave it up to my readers to see how many times the words “donate”, “support” and “give” are used by the charities on their respective websites.

The lack of empathy lies at the heart of the many abuses being committed against the men and women who work at sea. It would do no harm if the charities and others in the shipping world used the word “empathy” more often. Or does everyone think that the quality is inherent in humans and can thus be taken for granted?

~ Barista Uno

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