Amid the parties we must remember those who make this industry work

Stuart Rivers, CEO of the Sailors’ Society charity, writes exclusively for Splash today, reminding those attending next week’s jamboree in Athens not forget about the daily problems faced by the men and women working out at sea.

Next week, more than 20,000 visitors are expected to attend one of the largest and most anticipated events in the shipping calendar.

Held under the beautiful Grecian sunshine not far from crystal-blue shores, Posidonia is a whirlwind of conferences, sporting events, seminars, networking, and the rounds of receptions and soirees for which it is famous.

As always, my colleagues and I are looking forward to the fruitful discussions and debates that will take place, to greeting old friends and making new acquaintances.

It’s hard not to be swept away by the energy of this inspiring event.

But I’m mindful that Sailors’ Society’s mission to support seafarers, the lifeblood of our industry, continues; and this will be at the forefront of my thoughts next week.

This year, Sailors’ Society celebrates 200 years of supporting seafarers and their families. The charity’s longevity and success is in no small part due to our industry supporters, who last year helped us to reach out to more than 375,000 seafarers.

In just a few years, our supporters’ efforts have helped us take our Wellness at Sea programme from its initial stages as a classroom based course, to a suite of tools for seafarers and companies to manage and maintain well-being at sea, including a free app and an e-learning platform.

Our supporters have helped us reach out to people through our Crisis Response Network; seafarers such as Adi who we helped reintegrate into ‘normal’ life after five years held captive by pirates.

They’ve enabled our chaplains to provide support to lonely seafarers during long contracts away from friends and family, to offer welfare grants and transport to essential local facilities, to help in times of illness in a foreign port.

They’ve helped us to continue our efforts to strengthen seafaring communities affected by natural disaster or economic deprivation, in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Ghana, such as by building homes and schools, and offering support.

And they’ve made our investment in people’s futures possible through our nautical education grants and scholarships, for example the scholarship for 18-year-old Calista Chan, who is on the path to fulfilling her dream of becoming a Captain.

Yet there is still so much more to be done.

Our latest Wellness at Sea conference highlighted yet again how important it is that the human element be valued, supported and invested in if it is to be an effective force within the industry.

In a recent study of seafarers’ mental health, conducted on our behalf by Yale University, more than a quarter of seafarers indicated signs of depression.

Our crisis response team is regularly called upon to respond to cases of abandonment, accident or ambush.

And the need for assistance from our port chaplains and volunteer ship visitors is as great as ever.

The generosity of our supporters is again in evidence this week.

One of the chosen supported charities of Posidonia, Sailors’ Society is also honoured to be championed by several of our long-term corporate partners, including Lloyd’s Register, who are stocking our BySea coffee and making a donation for every new registration they receive.

My team and I will return from Posidonia, inspired by the conversation, our minds full of new information and ideas, and exhilarated by the buzz of joining together with other members of our great industry.

But we will also return with a renewed vigour to redouble our efforts to support those most in need.


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