Seafarers celebrated

World Maritime Day celebrations highlighted some of the challenges faced by seafarers.

24 October 2021 | Events

Pinehas Auene; DMA; “Seafarers are indispensable to shipping …”

Walvis Bay • [email protected]

The Association for Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa (Womesa) and the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) joined the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in commemorating World Maritime Day. This year’s celebrations were hosted under the theme, Seafarers at the core of shipping’s future”.

Womesa called for the gathering of statistics on employees of the sector and the assurance that it is classified as per industry, levels and gender. “This will enable us to account for all Namibians ashore and those working at sea, and ensure adequate resources and capacity-building interventions are employed to enhance skills and create a balanced skilled workforce for current and future needs.”

In his keynote address, Pinehas Auene of the directorate of maritime affairs (DMA), said that shipping is at the centre of world trade and that without it, globalisation would not be where it is today.
“Seafarers are indispensable to shipping and the industry will not survive without the approximately two million men and women who go about their jobs quietly. They lead a semi-nomadic life that many of us don’t see, live on the fringes of society and are exposed to countless man-made and natural hazards.” He added that the pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of seafarers, seeing them stranded for months on end due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic. “Seafarers have been shunned and many have been over-contracted and not able to travel back home to see their families. The net effect is a profession that is unattractive for young people, especially those from the western world.” According to Auene, Namibia creates an enabling and conducive environment for both shipping and seafarers as a maritime nation and budding logistics hub serving the SADC region. “We should continue to allow seafarers to do their work and allow them to take their shore leave without hindrance. Officials must treat them in a professional manner. They are the backbone of global commerce.”

Global shortage

He stated that there has been a growing global shortage of qualified seafarers (about 25 000 STCW certified officers). “The shortage presents an enormous opportunity for Namibian youth, provided that as a nation, certain things including a clear strategy for increasing the percentage of Namibian seafarers in the global shipping industry are put in place.”

Womesa chairperson Leena Kadhila said that the theme for this year’s celebrations reflects a clear need to raise awareness of seafarers’ crucial role in world trade and increase their visibility. “As a result of Covid-19, the crew change crisis in 2020 highlighted seafarer’s exceptional contribution as essential workers delivering vital goods. The international community has seen how the ability of shipping services and seafarers ensures the functioning of global supply chains. This could not happen without the professionalism and dedication of the world’s seafarers.”
She said that the importance of having a properly trained and qualified workforce ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of digitalisation and automation within the marine space cannot be emphasised enough. “I encourage all Namibian women to break the ice and take up space within maritime careers. We look forward to having more Namibian females working on national and international vessels.”

Gender fairness

Viviane Kinyaga from the secretariat of the Benguela Current Convention (BCC), stated that a gender situational assessment in close collaboration with Womesa in 2018 revealed useful information that may guide actions towards gender mainstreaming. “Women seafarers makes up less than 1%, women in fisheries and aquaculture 25%, women in ocean science 55% and women in tourism 41%. Despite the role that women play in the management of marine ecosystems, their participation is lagging in the development of value chains, governance, decision-making, and benefits from the ecosystem.”

Phillip Iwete, from the Namibian maritime officers and shipping association (Namosa), listed the lack of representation with regards to effective bargaining power in the industry, cruel treatment and a lack of regulations and policies that guide Namibianization as well as no meaningful progress with regards to the process, as some of the challenges faced by Namibian seafarers.
“The continual granting of work permits to foreigners by the ministry of home affairs while we have qualified graduates roaming the streets of Walvis Bay looking for jobs, is unfair. Seafarers matter. They need to be properly catered for and not be used and discarded.”