Seafarers: The Unsung Heroes
Feature Articles

Seafarers: The Unsung Heroes

May 21, 2020

 “Life’s roughest storms prove the strength of our anchors” 

By Nivedita Achappa

For decades our seafarers are the unsung heroes of the maritime. In times of need, they are selfless and ready to help. Everyone everywhere relies on the shipping industry for the goods and commodities we all need and want. But it’s a tough and a demanding job which sometimes can put pressure on the seafarers’ mental health. 

A seafarer’s job can be rewarding and fulfilling but it can also have its more difficult moments. Many different factors can affect the quality of life at sea. They include shore leave, the threat of abandonment, prompt payment of wages, the prospect of criminalisation and even simple things like internet access and provision of gym facilities on board ship.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and its global network of National Member Associations and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and its 215 Seafarers Unions call upon seafarers across the world to sound their ship’s horns when in port at 12.00 local time on International Workers Day on May 1. The International Workers Day or May Day or Labour Day is recognised in many countries around the world to celebrate and acknowledge the contribution made by workers across the world. 

The ICS and ITF are encouraging the gesture of solidarity to recognise over 1.6 million seafarers across the world. Our seafarers are the true unsung heroes of the global trade and we must not forget the contribution that they are making everyday to keep our countries supplied with goods that we need. They are all heroes at sea. 

ITF welcomes this initiative to call upon seafarers to sound their ships horns in a global expression of solidarity but also importantly to also ensure that the spotlight remains on how critical seafarers are to ensure that the essential goods continue to be transported around the world during this crisis to continue keeping supply chains moving in these unprecedented times. 

At sea, one realises ‘How little a person needs, not how much!’ The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought fear and anxiety to the seafarers and their families around the world. They do their job day in and day out staying away from their homes, families and friends. Let’s all show solidarity with the seafarers (men and women) who are sailing in the high seas worldwide and who really are the backbone of global trade and economy. 

Seafarers are the unseen and unsung heroes who are essential in ensuring that the supply chain of food, medicines, fuel, energy and other goods keep operating.

Career in the high seas requires people to be mentally strong and physically tough.  They need to be able to adapt to different environments and work cultures. They should be willing to take on responsibility, have love for adventure and challenges and have a desire to strive for higher positions. They should be able to work as well as study for examinations in between. They need to be intelligent, intuitive, willing to work in a team, be flexible, be patient, have a liking for solitude, are willing to live away from family and loved ones for long stretches of time. 

Also a special mention to the many wives and families of seafarers, who are motivating them and staying positive during this pandemic, they deserve our appreciation. Their role is more often understood than told.

Cheers to the brave men, who choose careers at sea and the women in their lives who match them in every possible way!

Let’s show support and solidarity with seafarers and pray for their early return home. They too are the frontline workforce during this global pandemic — though unseen and unsung. 

[Nivedita Achappa (Bolakaranda) is the wife of Chief Marine Engineer Amit Achappa (Natolanda), Anglo Eastern Ship Management]

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