In the vast, global community that makes up the international maritime industry, there is no more important component than seafarers. Without their professionalism and commitment, not only would global shipping grind to a halt, but the fabric of global trade as we know it would fall apart. That is one reason why the wellbeing of maritime workers is important. Another reason is the unique nature of their workplace. Not only are they largely invisible to the people whose needs they service, they exist in a complex legal environment where multiple jurisdictions of flags, ports, and their home countries sometimes fail to provide the protections enjoyed by citizens working ashore.
In spite of their key role, their welfare is rarely top of the agenda in an industry of tight margins and just-in-time delivery.
It is now five years since the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) entered into force.As a mechanism to ensure that minimum standards are met, the MLC has proved to be an invaluable tool to counter the worst conditions that sadly still exist. But regulations rely on effective enforcement and a culture of compliance. Full marks to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) for recently banning one such substandard vessel from its waters for a full 12 months for crew welfare violations. It is to be sincerely hoped that others follow their example. The United Arab Emirates also deserves a mention for upping its efforts to dispatch shameful operators from its waters.
For every step in the right direction towards improving welfare standards, one only has to look at the IMO/ILO database on abandoned seafarers to see that the maritime industry has some way to go to reach the nirvana of a ‘level playing field for shipowners’ that doesn’t permit undercutting through the worst sort of cost-cutting, putting the safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our industry at risk. Earlier this month, we saw 16 Indian sailors finally return home after being stranded in Fujairah Port for six months, without pay. Then there are the strict security controls in ports, endless inspections and minimal opportunities for shore leave, not to mention the inhumane environments of out of town mechanised port complexes.No wonder then that there is more awareness of the stresses and strains placed on seafarers and concerns for their mental as well as physical wellbeing.
Seafarers are of course heavily reliant on a vast network of shore-based counterparts when it comes to many aspects of their working lives. From ship owners to ship managers, flag state inspectors to port authorities and ship agents, their decisions have a major impact of the conditions and wellbeing of seafarers, for better or worse.They are also supported by the extensive community of people providing maritime welfare services.Many of these individuals share a genuine commitment to the cause of maritime welfare. Indeed, for some, it is a vocation to which they have dedicated their careers and lives. Having just attended the NAMMA (North American Maritime Ministry Association) conference which took place in Baltimore between August 14-17, I can personally testify to the extraordinary, and largely voluntary, efforts of these good people to provide a welcoming environment to international crews far from home.
Maritime welfare touches on and is impacted by a wide range of issues, from the legal framework to anunderstanding of occupational health issues, including the physical, psychological, and social aspects of working at sea. Equally, the discipline of crew management today brings in a range of important considerations, including the evolving threats to safety and security, both in port and at sea.
Goodwill is essential butto be effective in any role that involves engaging with seafarers, or taking decisions that affect their lives, requires expertise. The need for a professional skillset deserves to be taken seriously. Indeed, we believe that employers with seafarer-facing personnel have a responsibility to equip their people with the knowledge and skills to do their jobs properly, which means understanding the welfare implications of the decisions that they take.
For anyone looking for another reason why it is important to invest in maritime welfare, we need to consider how attractive a career at sea will be for the young people that we need to attract into the industry. With recent reports of a ‘demographic timebomb’ in seafaring, any astute employer should think about how they will recruit and retain a high-quality workforce without addressing their welfare needs.
Although training has been available in different aspects of maritime welfare, there has not until now been a training programme that addresses all aspects, giving participants a full 360-degree perspective on maritime welfare. This has changed with the launch of MARI-WEL– the Professional Development Programme in Maritime Welfare.
Launched on this year’s IMO Day of the Seafarer, MARI-WEL is a new training programme specifically designed toprovide the skills and knowledgethat all maritime professionals need to support the welfare needs of seafarers.It has been created through collaboration betweenthe ITF Seafarers’ Trust, a leading UK-based charity founded to advance the wellbeing of seafarers, maritime workers and their families, and the International Maritime Organization’s World Maritime University (WMU). It is the first programme of its kind to deliver a comprehensive and innovative distance learning course of topics that relate to maritime welfare.From the latest developments in IMO codes and conventions to the role and ethics of social intervention, this course covers all the bases.
MARI-WEL is delivered via an online portal through a series ofactivities and video lectures given by top experts in their field and is accredited by the WMU.It allows participants to undertake the programme from anywhere in the world, with the flexibility to follow the course at their own speed and as time allows.
In terms ofa professional approach to maritime welfare training, we believe MARI-WEL is set to become the gold standard.
Press Release: namma.org
Source: Maritime Shipping News