a collage of maritime photos
Photo:©IMO

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the professionalism and sacrifice of the two million seafarers who serve on the world’s merchant fleet. Shipping has continued to transport more than 80% of world trade, including vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery – but hundreds of thousands of seafarers face a humanitarian crisis as they have been stranded at sea, unable to get off the ships they operate with contracts extended by many months. This needs to be addressed urgently, through Governments designating seafarers as essential workers and ensuring safe crew changes can take place.

2021 Theme: Seafarers at the core of shipping’s future

The theme for this year reflects a clear need to raise awareness of seafarersʹ crucial role in world trade and increase their visibility. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the crew change crisis in 2020 has highlighted seafarersʹ exceptional contribution as key and essential workers on the front line of delivering vital goods through a pandemic and in ordinary times. The international community has seen how the ability for shipping services and seafarers to ensure the functioning of the global supply chains has been central to responding to, and eventually overcoming, this pandemic. This could not happen without the professionalism and dedication of the world’s seafarers.

The World Maritime theme for 2021 will provide the opportunity to focus on seafarers as the people at the heart of shipping, while also allowing for activities to delve into specific topics relevant to the role of the seafarer in safety, maritime security, environmental protection and seafarersʹ well-being; and the future of seafaring against a backdrop of increased digitalization and automation. The theme also links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 4 on education and training; SDG 8 related to decent work; SDG 9 on innovation and industry, which links to the promotion of a resilient maritime sector; and SDG 5 on gender equality, linked to efforts to promote seafaring as a career for all, including women, in particular.

Background

International shipping transports more than 80 per cent of global trade to peoples and communities all over the world. Shipping is the most efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation for most goods; it provides a dependable, low-cost means of transporting goods globally, facilitating commerce and helping to create prosperity among nations and peoples.

The world relies on a safe, secure and efficient international shipping industry, which is an essential component of any programme for future sustainable green economic growth in a sustainable manner.

The promotion of sustainable shipping and sustainable maritime development is one of the major priorities of IMO in the coming years. Therefore, energy efficiency, new technology and innovation, maritime education and training, maritime security, maritime traffic management and the development of the maritime infrastructure: the development and implementation of global standards covering these and other issues will underpin IMO's commitment to provide the institutional framework necessary for a green and sustainable global maritime transportation system.

Documents

IMO HQ

IMO, as a specialized agency of the United Nations, is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented. Therefore, its role is to create a level playing-field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance.

ocean

The United Nations is working to ensure the peaceful, cooperative, legally defined uses of the seas and oceans for the individual and common benefit of humankind. The UN’s groundbreaking work in adopting the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention stands as a defining moment in the extension of international law to the vast, shared water resources of our planet. The convention has resolved several important issues related to ocean usage and sovereignty.

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.