As we sit down with family and friends to enjoy the good things that the festive season will bring, Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) asks us to spare a thought for those men and women who make it possible. “I am talking specifically about the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who will be swapping the love and comfort of their families this Christmas for the 24/7 day-to-day routine that seafaring demands, bringing food to our tables and gifts for under the tree, “ he says.
“Shipping never sleeps and does not stop for any holiday period which is why it is very much business as usual for the people who make it happen. It has been said that ships don’t move cargo – people move cargo, so without the unselfish work of a highly trained and motivated global seafaring workforce, world trade would simply not happen. And when you consider that seafarers can be at sea for several months at a time, the commitment to the job and the role they play is very clear for all to see.”
And that commitment to the task in hand continues to be demonstrated through the unceasing humanitarian role that shipping and seafaring plays in situations such as the rescue of migrants, set adrift in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats, believes Peter. “Global television coverage shows the relieved looks on the migrants faces as they step off the merchant vessel to begin a life in a safer environment ashore,” he says, “but little regard is given to the seafarer himself who executed the rescue in the first place and cared for the wellbeing of what may have been large numbers of migrants during the last leg of their tortuous journey. Doing whatever is necessary to save life at sea is something that our seafarers carry out instinctively despite not being trained to cope with the demands of hundreds of migrants. Yet we expect them to act professionally and selflessly, with no real thanks.
“Shipping has long struggled with its image – certainly when it comes to how it is perceived by the man in the street. Does it have a bad image? Or is it more of an invisible image with many taking its services completely for granted?”
This is an important issue because how shipping is perceived impacts on how it is treated and regarded, not only by policy makers and lawmakers but also by the young and talented looking to that all-important career move. “Shipping is changing and evolving and it needs to be able to attract the right talent to its ranks,” he adds.
“So as the last few days of 2016 slip by, ICS would like to pay tribute to all seafarers for the work they do and for the important role they play in allowing us to live our lives as we do.”