The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) on Friday marked the Day of the Seafarer with a call on governments to recognize seafarers as essential workers and ensure better conditions of service for their contribution to the global economy.
Commemorated on the theme: “Fair Future for Seafarers,” this year’s celebration offered an opportunity to recognize the invaluable contribution of seafarers who keep the wheels of the worldwide commerce and economic system running.
It was also to call on governments to recognize seafarers as essential workers and ease the travel restrictions on them despite the COVID-19 pandemic
Mr Thomas Kofi Alonsi, Director General, Ghana Maritime Authority, in an address to mark the day underscored the important role of seafarers in maritime transportation.
He said it was appropriate to appreciate their significant contribution to the world’s economy coupled with the risks and personal costs they bore while on their jobs.
He said seafaring remained the world’s most important profession because about 1.7 million seafarers provided the Labour force that kept the global economy moving.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that ship transport constitutes 80 per cent or more of the world’s trade.
He noted that the seafarer’s role was critical not only for the safe operations of the ships but also for the delivery of cargo given the havoc wreaked on seafarers and their families by the Coronavirus and its attendant restrictions.
According to the Director-General, a survey conducted on the IMO’s website asking seafarers how the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the future of seafaring, some 73 per cent of respondents said things had changed for the worse, adding that it was a concern worth seriously considering.
He said President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo supported the Ghana Maritime Authority during the lockdown to take urgent steps to help vessels undertake Crew changes to minimize the frustration of seafarers, who had been at sea or sitting at home for unacceptably long periods.
Mr Alonsi said Ghana was among the 45 IMO Member states and the Associate Member States acknowledged by the IMO for recognizing seafarers as key workers providing essential services.
This led to the reduction of the hardship of over 200,000 seafarers stranded at sea during the pandemic.
Captain Dallas Laryea, IMO Representative, in a remark, reiterated the challenging working conditions the COVID-19 pandemic had created, including port access, repatriation, and crew changes, among others.
He said despite these difficulties, seafarers went beyond the call of duty, working tirelessly to keep global trade flowing.
He said IMO and partners were doing their part to support seafarers to ensure that they were given the rights and protections of key workers, including priority vaccination and ease of travel.
Mr Edem Loh-Mensah, President, Seafarers Centre Ghana, said despite the well-trained personnel, there were limited opportunities in the industry, leading to high unemployment.
He decried the deplorable conditions their colleagues in the fishing sector faced and called on the GMA and the Sector Minister to, as a matter of urgency, look into the many challenges of seafarers and alleviate their plight.