Today (23 September 2010) marks the 33rd celebration of World Maritime Day, the annual occasion when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) leads the world in highlighting a key issue for the Organization and the shipping industry. This year, the theme for World Maritime Day is: “2010: Year of the Seafarer”. In his World Maritime Day message to the international maritime community, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said that the intention of the theme had been to draw attention to the unique circumstances within which seafarers spend their working lives, while rendering their indispensable services, but also to make a palpable and beneficial difference.   “In selecting the “Year of the Seafarer” theme, our intention was also to use it as an excellent opportunity to reassure those who labour at the “sharp end” of the industry – the seafarers themselves – that those of us who work in other areas of the maritime community, and yet whose actions have a direct bearing on seafarers’ everyday lives, understand the extreme pressures they face and approach our tasks with genuine interest and concern for them and their families,” Mr. Mitropoulos said.
Mr. Mitropoulos said he welcomed wholeheartedly the decision of the Manila Conference, in June 2010, which adopted major revisions to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention) and its associated Code, to make the 25th of June of each year the annual “Day of the Seafarer”: a day on which to mark the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole. The date chosen was that on which the Conference was concluded and acknowledges the significance of the STCW amendments then adopted for the maritime community and those who serve it on board ships.   “When IMO first mooted the idea that our theme for 2010 should focus on the seafarer, we wanted to do two things; first, to draw attention to a workforce that is largely unheralded and unacknowledged, often even within the industry it serves; and, second, to extend the theme beyond the regular World Maritime Day celebrations and to galvanize a momentum that would last for the whole year and, indeed, beyond,” Mr. Mitropoulos said.   In his world Maritime Day message, Mr. Mitropoulos took the opportunity to directly address key segments of the maritime and the broader community. “This is what I would like to tell them,” he said:   - “to members of the shipping industry: maintain high standards; enshrine best practices; embrace corporate social responsibility; provide a clean, safe and comforting workplace; recognize and reward those on whose labours your profits depend;   - to politicians: work towards the ratification, entry into force and implementation of all the international measures that have a bearing on seafarers’ safety and security and living and working conditions; show that you really are in touch with the people at the sharp end;   - to legislators and law enforcers: aim at striking a fair balance in all of your actions concerning seafarers so that they do not become scapegoats caught up in the aftermath of accidents and incidents; treat them fairly and decently – they deserve every empathy and compassion;   - to educators: tell the younger generations about seafaring, the debt we owe to shipping and the attractions of the maritime professions; it should not take too great a leap of the imagination to stir maritime ingredients into the pot of learning through history, geography, biology, environmental studies, economics, business studies and many more;   - to port and immigration authorities: treat seafarers with the respect they deserve; welcome them as visitors and guests to your countries – as professionals that are also serving the interests and development of your nations and fellow citizens;   - to those in a position to shape and influence public opinion, particularly newspaper and TV journalists: take the time and trouble to seek out both sides of the story next time you report on an accident involving a ship; place the accident in its proper context, that of millions upon millions of tonnes of cargo safely delivered over billions of miles to all four corners of the earth by a talented, highly trained, highly specialized and highly dedicated workforce;   - and, finally, to the 1.5 million seafarers of the world: the entire maritime community appreciates you and your indispensable services; is aware of the conditions under which you operate; shows compassion for the sacrifices you make; does care for you; and works to ensure your safety and security, praying that you always have calm seas, fair winds and a safe return home – which it wishes you wholeheartedly.” (Originally posted at

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