The effectiveness of the modern, global economy depends on the large-scale transport of cargo between locations all over the world. The only effective way to carry the vast majority of those goods is by sea. The maritime transport industry is, therefore, central to the livelihoods of billions of people; and the maritime transport industry, in turn, relies on seafarers. Without them, international trade would simply grind to a halt.
Seafaring can be demanding, onerous and, at times, dangerous. But thanks to the comprehensive framework of measures developed by the International Maritime Organization and other agencies of the United Nations, shipping is now safer and cleaner than ever before. It is the skills, competence and dedication of the world’s 1.5 million merchant seafarers that ensure those measures are properly implemented where it matters – on board ship. In this way, seafarers have contributed greatly to significant improvements in the shipping industry’s safety and environmental performance, a record all the more impressive given the massive recent expansion of seaborne trade. This is an important yet largely unheralded contribution to the world’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The year 2013 is an important one for the seafaring community, as the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention enters into force in August. This new instrument provides comprehensive rights and protection at work for the world's seafarers, and has become known as the "fourth pillar" of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping, complementing the key Conventions of the IMO.
On the Day of the Seafarer, I urge everyone to spare a thought for those courageous seafarers, men and women from all corners of the world, who face danger and tough working conditions to operate today’s complex, highly technical ships, every hour of every day of the year – and on whom we all depend.