Spare a thought this Christmas

While I wouldn’t admit to supermarket rage, the third trip in consecutive days to the local hypermarché here in France this week in the run up to Christmas certainly brought up plenty of ennui, shall we say. The fact is, I don’t like shopping at the best of times, but forgetting crucial ingredients such as nutmeg resulted in repeated trips down the road.

It is uncommonly hot here for this time of the year – more ‘shrimp on the barbie’ weather than roast turkey, though I will persevere with the latter.

The thing is though all this are irrelevant gripes. We in shipping at large tend to forget the thousands upon thousands in our sector who have to work on this holiday of holidays.

It’s hard to get very precise figures but I am indebted to the Sailors’ Society and Wallem Group who have estimated for Splash that some 780,000 men and women will be at sea on Christmas Day away from their families.

With shipping becoming an ever increasing financially led industry – the days of the family-run owners in peril – the lives of seafarers, in my humble opinion, are becoming more and more ignored. If ever the argument about broadband internet being made available to all at sea was more pertinent than on December 25, I’d be amazed.

Christmas Day for the majority of seafarers is a day that is among the hardest to be at sea. Don’t believe me? Head to the Philippines from September onwards. In this country, the world’s largest source of seafarers, accounting for roughly one in three of all ocean-going crewmembers, you’ll see Christmas decorations glowing from as early as September.

So as we all get a little infuriated with the shopping shenanigans that make up the annual Christmas rituals let’s spare a thought for those at sea this Yuletide – the invisible workforce – especially those with no means of calling home.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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