Manish Singh, CEO of Ocean Technologies Group, outlines his new year’s resolutions to help improve the lot of seafarers, urging peers to support his initiatives.
Three generations of my family are blessed to have served at sea and I am proud of the role seafarers play in sustaining the way of life we take for granted in today’s globalised world. Being at the helm of a group that serves over a million seafarers, I resolve to build further in 2021 with industry partners, in our collective efforts to mitigate the crisis facing seafarers as a community and seafaring as a career.
The recent blockade of European truckers across the English Channel made front page stories. Scores of legislators intervened through their Christmas breaks, volunteers brought essentials and festive cheer, troops administered Covid testing and helped stranded truckers reach home in time for Christmas. Alas, we still have hundreds of thousands of seafarers overdue for relief, continuing to miss significant life events because of restricted repatriations.
Let’s keep building increased awareness towards seafaring in the mainstream public conscience
Last year saw unprecedented collaboration within the industry to coordinate repatriations and the United Nations accorded key worker status to seafarers. However, not only do Covid-related restrictions continue to impact serving seafarers, but they have also impacted seafaring as a career choice, for youngsters seeing the plight of seafarers.
The Channel blockade caught the public’s attention because of the human suffering and the threat of empty shop shelves. However, a much larger threat requires public and governmental reaction globally. Without seafarers, half the world would freeze, and the other half would starve. Decarbonisation targets to address climate change cannot be met unless shipping plies over 90% of global cargo.
Maintaining seafaring as an attractive career of choice is as important as motivating youngsters to become doctors, engineers, scientists, artists, researchers, or teachers. It takes decades to develop thriving seafaring communities and proficient seafarers. Without long-term strategic attention to issues impacting seafarers, it is impossible to develop quality seafarers in required numbers. And yet today, seafarers continue to face indifference from many states, in addition to other continuing threats like piracy, criminalisation, unfair treatment, and abandonment.
The IMO, ILO, flag administrations and industry bodies including IMEC, ISF, Inter Manager, ISWAN, Nautical Institute, ITF, Nautilus, Sailor’s Society, various missions and charities for seafarer support do exceptional work in support of seafarers. As do quality shipowners and managers. As a mariner, I call for greater grass roots industry collaboration on initiatives that mitigate challenges facing our seafarers and sustaining seafaring as an attractive career choice. Here are some resolutions I am committing to, with the help of colleagues and collaborators.
- Ample helpline capacity to support every seafarer – across major seafaring languages
- Increase mainstream awareness about seafaring – using channels beyond maritime
- Free or subsidised educational resources – for pre-sea use of aspiring seafarers
- Facilitating greater peer-to-peer interactions among seafarers – through curated content and dialogue for serving and aspiring seafarers
- Tools for transferable skills for ship-shore transition – from pre-sea to post-sea stages of their career.
We will continue to build on these and further initiatives from fellow collaborators within the private services sector.
Administrations can similarly mitigate challenges on multiple fronts. With key worker status accorded, an enhanced visa status for seafarers travelling between ships and homes will be a great place to start. Having helped globalise the world, we must not find seafarers at the back of the queue.
Greater participation of seafarers with current or recent seagoing experience in various policy making dialogue will transform the effectiveness of our collective efforts.
It’s great that seafarers have been accorded their deserving stature within the industry. Let’s keep building increased awareness towards seafaring in the mainstream public conscience. This will enhance empathy, mobility, satisfaction, dignity and pride towards seafarers as mission-critical front-line key workers for the world.