bandwagon: an activity, group, movement, etc. that has become successful or fashionable and so attracts many new people (Cambridge Dictionary)

There is nothing wrong with bandwagons per se. In fact, they are often necessary in bringing about change as the whole world is witnessing in the case of women’s rights and climate action. The problem arises when people are swayed by rhetoric, not reason, and unthinkingly hop onto the wagon just because it is fashionable to do so. Unfortunately, this is happening with the bandwagon that carries the banners “Wellness at Sea” and “Seafarer Mental Health”.

No one can deny that the mental well-being of seafarers is important, not only to the seafarers and their families, but to the shipping industry itself. Neither can anybody argue that depression at sea is not a serious problem. The statistics suggest that it is.

However, the way the maritime charities are talking about the issue makes one think that depression is an epidemic sweeping the seafaring world. Unwittingly, the do-gooders are creating an image of 21st-century seafarers as weak and vulnerable creatures who are prey to the meanderings of their own minds. Is this how the industry wants seafarers to see themselves?

To make matters worse, one charity has been clamoring to make wellness training for seafarers mandatory through an amendment of ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. If successful, this would make the milestone convention, no longer a ‘bill of rights’ for seafarers, but a bill of opportunities for the maritime do-gooders. Many who have joined the bandwagon do not bother to ask: what’s in it for those pulling the wagon?

The same unquestioning attitude can be seen in the case of the biggest maritime bandwagon of all, the annual ‘Day of the Seafarer’. Marine Café Blog was the first and still the only one to call it what it is — an anomaly. From a blog post in 2016:

Call me a grinch, a spoilsport. But I have never felt the urge to observe the Day of the Seafarer (25th of June). It’s not just the empty slogans and tributes from the very people who have commodified seamen that dampen my mood. I am dismayed by the mere fact that the annual celebrations are spearheaded by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) — not by the International Labour Organization (ILO) or the United Nations collectively.

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)

Alas, it’s a conformist world. Anyone who hesitates or refuses to join the bandwagon is seen as nothing more than a grinch and a spoilsport. The herd mentality reigns supreme in shipping no less than in the subservient maritime press.

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