Fishing company pays tribute to seafarers

Erongo Marine Enterprises (EME) joined the international maritime community in paying tribute to the unsung heroes of the seas on the annual Day of the Seafarer celebrated on 25 June.

29 June 2020 | Fishing

Seafarers have to endure many hardships while working under extraordinary circumstances, sometimes even risking their lives – as was evident from the sinking of the MFV Resplendent earlier this year.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of this special day, which aims to recognise and give thanks to seafarers globally for their contribution to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society. It also aims to recognise the risks and personal cost they bear while performing their job.

The focus of this year’s campaign, promoted through social media with the hashtag #SeafarersAreKeyWorkers, seeks to raise awareness of the work seafarers have done during Covid-19 and to thank them for their contribution.

It also encourages people to treat them with respect and dignity so they can continue the good work they have been doing.
“Our crew is the life-blood of our business,” said EME managing director Dr Martha Uumati.

“Without their hard work under difficult circumstances, there would be no Erongo Marine Enterprises.”

She added: “We may never forget that our workers drive this very important sector and ultimately, the economy of our country. Yet, often very little recognition is given to this workforce. I hope that entities will recognise this more and eventually give workers the recognition they deserve.”

Uumati paid tribute to all seafarers in the local fishing and maritime industry who through their hard work and sacrifice, have contributed and continue to contribute to the economic success of Walvis Bay and the country.

“You work selflessly in the deep seas for long periods to ensure the success of our company, and you do so at a great personal cost. Apart from working in challenging conditions, I know from experience that one of the biggest difficulties you face is being away from your loved ones. Missing family events such as the birth of child, saying goodbye to a loved one, or missing out on birthdays and weddings, are sacrifices you have to make to ensure the success of our company.”

Second biggest earner

After mining, the fishing industry is Namibia's second biggest export earner of foreign currency. It is also the third largest economic sector in terms of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supports around 16 000 jobs.

Covid-19 has placed renewed focus on the challenging circumstances under which seafarers have to work. According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), nearly 90% of the world’s food, fuel, raw material and manufactured goods are delivered by sea. This places seafarers at the heart of global supply chains.

Even at times when air traffic ceased in many places in recent months, goods continued to be moved by sea to ensure the flow of vital goods like food, medicines and medical supplies.

In the same vein, the EME crew continued working throughout the local State of Emergency lockdown. “As an essential service supplier, EME remains committed to the uninterrupted supply of food to the most vulnerable communities who rely on access to affordable food,” Uumati said.

She said that horse mackerel is a low-cost protein and a vital source of nourishment for the lower-income market.

Safety first

Most of EME’s operations are sea-based, thus isolating its seagoing staff from onshore contact. “In the interest of keeping our crew safe and Covid-19 free, they had to remain on-board for extended periods of much longer than usual – a commitment Erongo Marine truly appreciates. However, we also realise that mental fatigue and physical exhaustion set in at some point. After all, these are human beings. In the end, we allowed our crew off the vessels, even if it meant going on land to be quarantined. At least this allowed them to make calls to family and friends,” Uumati said.

Some foreign technical or expert crew employed by EME are still stuck in Namibia due to international travel bans and safety protocols, and have not been home since before the local outbreak of Covid-19.