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World Maritime Day 2021: Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future

September 30, 2021 marks World Maritime Day and this year’s theme is all about recognising seafarers: “Seafarers: At the core of shipping's future".

This theme was chosen by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) following a year of action for seafarers, who play a vital role as key workers for global supply chains but are facing unprecedented hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim stated: "Shipping drives world trade and that trade simply does not happen without seafarers. While the challenges of automation and digitalisation - not to mention decarbonisation - will drive change in shipping, we will always need well-trained and motivated seafarers. We must ensure a diverse and expert workforce for the ships of the twenty-first century and beyond.”

During 2021, the IMO has interviewed several seafarers about topics of importance to them and the future of the sector. The profiles (on the IMO website and social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram) spotlight issues related to the human element of shipping, including the safety and security of life on board ships, seafarers' well-being, and the importance of ensuring an appropriately trained and qualified workforce, ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of digitalisation and automation.

This year IMO will launch a new annual initiative to unite the maritime community and raise awareness of the vital contribution of shipping to the world by bathing the IMO building in blue light on World Maritime Day.

John-Kaare Aune, Interim CEO, Wallem Group said: “With this year’s World Maritime Day addressing the integral role of seafarers in shaping the future of shipping, I, and everyone at Wallem, would first like to thank and salute all seafarers for the crucial work they are doing in the present.

“In what has been the most challenging period in recent history for many of us, these brave women and men have sacrificed more than most, facing unthinkable circumstances to ensure the global supply chain remains intact, the wheels of trade keep turning and our supermarket shelves stay stocked.

“Changing the narrative is only the beginning. Shipping companies will also have to cooperate with local governments and schools to recruit the brightest talents and develop them for seagoing positions, providing them with the tools and training they need to manage the ships of the future. Moreover, to inspire loyalty, the industry will have to deliver on its promises, with companies listening to their crew more closely than ever and making seafarer well-being their absolute priority.”

Speaking about the impact of digital technologies on seafarers, Eero Lehtovaara, head of regulatory affairs at ABB Marine & Ports stated: “Over the last five years, and particularly during the last 20 months, digital technologies have transformed lives ashore, both at home and at work. World Maritime Day 2021 therefore provides a timely opportunity to explore how digital and autonomous technologies can transform the working lives of our seafarers while also raising both safety standards and operational efficiency.

“A whole new range of digital and autonomous technologies have also been developed which can assist seafarers in their routine work schedules and support them in emergencies. These wide-ranging systems are available to ease the workload of both navigators and engineers, and to raise safety standards by enabling personnel to manage their time more effectively and to make better decisions.

Many of these digital systems have already been well tried and tested, and new solutions are being developed fast. Step by step, offering new and better ways to operate vessels.”

The 2022 World Maritime theme is 'New technologies for greener shipping'. This theme will reflect the need to support a green transition of the maritime sector into a sustainable future, while leaving no one behind.

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