“Seafarers: At the core of shippingʹs future” has been selected as the World Maritime theme for 2021, reflecting a clear need to raise awareness of seafarersʹ vital role in world trade and increase their visibility.
The focus on seafarers comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary and unprecedented demands on seafarers. Hundreds of thousands faced and are still facing extended sea times, going months at sea without seeing families and loved ones. The crew change crisis in 2020 has highlighted seafarersʹ exceptional contribution as key and essential workers, on the front line of delivering world trade through a pandemic and in ordinary times.
The IMO Council, meeting for its 32nd extraordinary session held by correspondence, endorsed the theme following a proposal by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.
The theme will provide flexibility to the Secretariat, Member States and NGOs in consultative status to focus on seafarers as the people at the heart of shipping, while also allowing for activities to delve into specific topics relevant to the role of the seafarer in safety, maritime security, environmental protection and seafarersʹ well-being; and the future of seafaring against a backdrop of increased digitalization and automation.
Lim said that the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated, more than ever, that it is crucially important to ensure the functioning of the global supply chains and the facilitation of the safe and efficient operation of maritime transport. “Through these difficult times, the international community has seen how the ability for shipping services and seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical supplies and food, has been central to responding to, and eventually overcoming, this pandemic. This could not happen without the professionalism and dedication of the worldʹs seafarers,” Lim said.
Seafarers have always been at the heart of everything IMO does. IMO has addressed training of seafarers, put the human element at the heart of the development of new regulations or amendments and recognized seafarersʹ contribution to shipping and world trade through the annual Day of the Seafarer campaign. In 2020, the tenth iteration of the Day of the Seafarer campaign took on the theme “Seafarers are key workers”.
The World Maritime theme for 2021 also links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 4 on education and training; SDG 8 related to decent work; SDG 9 on innovation and industry, which links to the promotion of a resilient maritime sector; and SDG 5 on gender equality, linked to efforts to promote seafaring as a career for all, including women, in particular. IMO said the theme can be viewed as an extension of the theme for 2020, which is “Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet” as seafarers are at the core of that theme, as well.