For those of us working in the shipping industry, the indispensability of seafarers is obvious. With issues around piracy and security, skills and training, new regulations and criminalisation looming large, it’s on our agenda every single day. And that’s in addition to the inherent, everyday challenges that seafarers experience, such as being away from family, loneliness and cultural differences among crews to name just a few.
The Day of the Seafarer campaign was initiated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2011 to raise global awareness and appreciation for the seafarer; the people that quietly, mostly unnoticed, keep the wheels of global trade in motion. They’re the unsung heroes of an industry that we all rely upon to transport food, fuel, commodities, raw materials and goods around the world.
Recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of skilled seafarers to staff and operate vessels is an acute and growing concern. The shortage of qualified, well-trained officers and crew is keenly felt by shipping companies across the globe. Advancements in computing and engineering are transforming ships from purely mechanical machines into hubs of complex electronics and digital systems. It is critical that seafarers have the skills and training to manage risks and solve problems. Driving wider understanding of the role of seafarers and encouraging more young people to consider it as a career is necessary for the future of world trade, as well a worthwhile and positive initiative to ensure seafarers get the recognition they deserve.
When BLUE was founded back in 2007, social media in shipping was almost unheard of. But as the industry has steadily migrated online, social media has been accepted as an additional and useful communications channel. From Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to Instagram and YouTube, in an inherently global industry that is trying to engage with an audience that’s increasingly grown up online, the power of social media is becoming an unavoidable part of the communications mix.
BLUE last worked with the IMO on its Day of the Seafarer campaign in 2014 and saw the reach of the IMO’s simple message reach nearly 56 million people on Twitter. Since then, Twitter’s online community has continued to grow and it has presented users with new opportunities for engagement, like its live video streaming platform Periscope. In addition, Facebook has grown to 1.65 billion users and newer platforms like Snapchat and Instagram continue to grow at incredible speed. The fear factor of engaging with stakeholders through social media channels is largely ebbing away and the Day of the Seafarer campaign illustrates how impactful, well crafted, and proactively managed online campaigns can be.
Despite the future potential of autonomous vessels, as an industry we will remain wholly dependent on seafarers. It’s easy to become fixated upon the vessels themselves, the innovative technology aboard and ashore, or the environmental regulations that are shaping future direction. However, ultimately, it’s the human element of shipping that we must never lose sight of. Seafarers are the indispensable and under-recognised core that make global trade possible and the Day of the Seafarer is both valuable and constructive. So please, get involved!