As Ghana joins the rest of the world to mark the 10th annual ‘Day of the Seafarer’, the (GMA), has called for the recognition of seafarers as key workers in the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
According to the GMA, seafarers are essential to the shipping sector thus the need to provide them with support and ensure that they are given the recognition they deserve for keeping the world moving in these trying times.
In a statement issued by the GMA, Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Thomas Kofi Alonsi, outlined five protocols intended to serve the interest of seafarers within the context of the global health crisis.
He announced GMA’s recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel, industry guidance for ship operators for the protection of the health of seafarers, recommendations on facilitating the movement of offshore energy sector personnel, guidance relating to the certification of seafarers and operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak on board ships.
Below is the full statement by the Director General of Ghana Maritime Authority, Thomas Kofi Alonsi:
The 25th of June marks the annual Day of the Seafarer (DotS) which was established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) with the main purpose of recognizing the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world’s biggest economy and civil society as a whole.
The Ghana Maritime Authority is therefore appropriately celebrating this day to promote and recognize the enormous contribution of the seafarer whose occupation is on board a ship at sea.
We share with the seafarer today the persornal frustration that prevails at sea and the exposure to sorrowful exile of life on the sea as the seafarer pursues a career which is a vital support mechanism for the global economy.
As we are all aware, an estimated 80% of global trade by volume and over 70% of global trade by value are carried by sea.
There is no doubt therefore that the maritime sector which includes shipping, ports and the people that operate them are wealth creators both on land and at sea.
We sincerely acknowledge the significant role the maritime sector plays in creating conditions for prosperity and stability ashore through in promoting trade by sea.
The International Maritime Organization which is the United Nations Agency responsible for safety and security of shipping recognizes seafarers to be at the heart of the works of the organisation and for which reason seafarers are celebrated annually with the day of the seafarer campaign.
Going down memory lane; in 2016, the day off the seafarer campaign celebrated seafarers by making known to the world how and why seafarers are indispensable.
The day of the seafarer in 2017 and 2018 focused on strong momentum in the maritime industry to address seafarer’s wellbeing, particularly the mental health.
Last year the campaign was on gender equality with the aim of empowering women to effectively and efficiently participate in operational activities in the maritime industry. This year’s day of the seafarer is being celebrated with the theme:
SEAFARERS ARE KEY WORKERS: ESSENTIAL TO SHIPPING, ESSENTIAL TO THE WORLD.
Under normal circumstances, the day of the seafarer campaign is organized to demonstrate how much seafarers matter to us. On those special days, social events and activities are organized to honour the enormous sacrifices they make for our comfort.
With the unprecedented situation of the current global pandemic, this year, the day of the seafarer campaign calls for the recognition of seafarers as key workers within the context of the corona virus pandemic (COVID-19).
It also advocates tor Seafarers, the provision of support and to ensure that seafarers are given the recognition they deserve for keeping the world moving in these trying times.
In these challenging times, seafarers have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic as the world relies on them to transport about 80% of trade by volume, including vital food and medical goods, energy and raw materials, as well as manufactured goods across the globe.
As they continue in this heroic profession, they have become collateral victims of the crises, as travel restrictions have left tens of thousands of them stranded on ships, or unable to join ships.
Many have already been on tours of duty significantly longer than the 11 months prescribed by the International Labour Organisation as the maximum length of seafarers’ contract.
The difficulties surrounding repatriation and crew changes have impacted the shipping industry tremendously and rightly identified as a priority issue, with the IMO and other organizations urging governments to intervene.
It is in this regard that a joint statement by IMO-ICAO-IL0 designated seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, offshore energy sector personnel and service provider personnel at the port as key workers.
In the wake of the COVID- 19 pandemic, governments and local authorities have implemented travel restrictions and health screening measures for travellers entering or exiting the country.
The Ghana Maritime Authority being cognizant of these national restrictions in the context of the outbreak has taken measures to ensure that, where appropriate, and with the consent and concurrence of other key stakeholders, ship crew are embarked and disembarked safely while observing established protocols.
While celebrating the seafarer today, we wish to state that the Ghana Maritime Authority acting on the advice of the IMO and other United Nations Agencies has issued the following protocols in the interest of seafarers within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel
2. Industry guidance for ship operators for the protection of the health of seafarers
3. Recommendations on facilitating the movement of offshore energy sector personnel
4. Guidance relating to the certification of seafarers
5. Operational considerations for managing COVID-19 cases/outbreak on board ships
The Authority has continuously been monitoring the situation and has worked closely with port facilities to ensure that seafarers on board ships who are in need of immediate medical care are given access to medical facilities on shore.
We are all aware that many sealarers have been away from home for several months and are not certain when they will be able to return due to travel restrictions.
While we sympathise with them, we mnust also recognize and acknowledge the achievements of these seafarers and appreciate their enormous contributions towards the development of the global economy.
The day of the seafarer campaign this year is focused on paying tribute to seafarers and acknowledging their sacrifices and the issues they face during this COVID-19 pandemic.
We call on everyone to equally recognize seafarers in their ability to deliver vital goods which are essential in responding to measures aimed at overcoming this pandemic.
And as rightly put by the IMO Secretary General, “we all have to be amazed and impressed with the dedication, professionalism, resilience and perseverance of seafarers as they have faced difficulties in conducting crew changes, inability to be repatriated, inability to get passports and visas to get to and from their ships, lack of access to medical care, lack of personal protective equipment, denial of shore leave-all as a result of well-intentioned efforts to protect public health and safety, but with overly restrictive consequences to shipping.”
Let us all join hands with the Secretary General to emphasise that seafarers need and deserve quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere and not just during this pandemic, but at all times.
On this special day designated to recognize the enormous contributions of seafarers to Ghana and the world at large, the Ghana Maritime Authority, the agency tasked among other maritime activities, to oversee matters pertaining to the training, recruitment and welfare of Ghanaian seafarers takes this opportunity to congratulate seafarers working across the globe to ensure the world does not grind to a halt even in these critical times.