Seafarers At The Core Of Shipping's Future

The write-up is on the essence of seafarers to the shipping future.

Shipping is made possible through Maritime (Waterborne) transportation, one of the fastest, apparent, and the largest, cheapest means of transporting vehicles, raw materials, oil, agricultural produce, manufactured goods, humans, etc. According to the United State's estimation, in 2021, 80% of all world trade (by volume) will be transacted through the sea with fewer troubles. Without shipping, intercontinental trade, transportation of raw materials in bulk quantity, and import/export of already made goods cannot take place effectively in the sense that shipping ensures the safety and protection of these goods by making sure that they arrive at their destination without much difficulty. Hence with this, we can convincingly say that shipping is the life wire of world trade/globalization.

Talking about the essence/importance of shipping without bringing seafarers in will be a waste of time and energy. These ships do not and cannot move on their own without control and navigation, stocking/placement of the goods on the ships, the routes through which the ships move, defense of the shipment on board, accurate delivery of the products, navigation of the ship, etc. are all done and carried out by sea workers known as seafarers. They are not limited to a particular job on the sea; it is a name given to all sea workers ranging from sailors, Mariners, seaman, boatswain, deckhand, helmsman, bargeman, ship's officer, pilot, sea lawyer, go, navigators, whalers, etc.

Over the years, the major challenge of the shipping industry has been that of decarbonization and reducing Shipping emissions. During the 26th annual summit of the UN climate change conference (COP26) held in Glasgow between 1-12 November 2021, several innovational measures were discussed, all in the quest of shaping the future of Shipping(achieving net zero-emission, fighting decarbonization and climate change, etc.). In my view, I think the fastest measure of conquering decarbonization is through digitalization. Now talking about digitalization, who are those to practicalize or test the product of digitalization in the shipping industry? The answer is SEAFARERS. While the ship owners and technology experts take care of the financial expenses and come up with digital ideas(theories) and machinery/accessories to tackle decarbonization, the seafarers are the ones executing it in real life(practical) on the ship/sea.

Secondly, Nations are fueled by gas, i.e., the shortage of oil supply because of a delay in the time of delivery, or stalled ship can lead to an economic downturn worldwide. Seafarers have been taken hostages and kept as prisoners in miserable conditions by sea pirates, with a lot of ships hijacked (as there is no means of external security while onboard), but in spite of all these, seafarers continue to go through these pirate zones as nearly half of the world's seaborne oil supply passes through these pirate-infested areas. Imagine what would have happened to our economy if seafarers refused to work in these areas. The sea isn't as friendly as what we see or observe from the shore or in movies; despite the latest advancement technologically, seafarers are at the mercy of nature while on the sea. They sacrifice virtually everything, including their lives and families, to ensure that these cargos are shipped to the exact location and at the scheduled time. Several ships sink each year because of wild storms and rough weather, but this doesn't scare them. They are prone to several deadly infections, diseases, and illnesses by wild sea creatures, nature of their work and regularly travels to new places which may lead to death, they fall victims to psychological problems, e.g., fatigue, homesickness, loneliness, etc., mental problems and they become their own doctors as there are in most cases no possibilities of getting extra medical help while on board.

Also, the food we eat (including foreign food products) and the clothes we wear are mostly transferred via shipping. Have we ever wondered if we are in Nigeria where our phone is Chinese, we wear Italian shoes, a Korean processor runs wigs, perfumes, watches, dresses, laptops, etc.? All these and lots more are made possible through seafarers. In addition, seafarers who are consistently involved in offering humanitarian relief for those who cannot make it all the way are taking vast risks of life to escape their countries. In the case of vessels/ships which are subject to attack/accident while on the sea, a ship within the vicinity will always be there to render assistance. Quoting the words of the Director-General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, the seafarer is "the unsung hero of maritime."

Conclusively, the role of seafarers in the shipping future is indispensable and cannot be replaced. Despite the latest technological trend wherein ships are moving towards unmanned, seafarers' experience on the sea, expertise, theoretical knowledge, training with topics ranging from astronomy, engines, law, etc. cannot be replaced by machines being controlled by people sitting at the comfort of their homes/workplaces. Let us not forget that the sea is a world/on its own and cannot align well with humans' predictions. This expertise/knowledge gained by seafarers will always remain a triumph over any present or future challenges in the shipping industry.

All we need to do is to ensure that seafarers are given their best and not being indeed in terms of personal welfare/welfare of their families, create means to protect/safeguard seafarers while onboard, ensuring that seafarers are adequately and appropriately trained in order to be able to withstand, meet and tackle the challenges and opportunities of shipping future, allowing stranded seafarers to be repatriated and not being biased in giving employment to seafarers, lessening the amount of workload apportioned to then by ensuring safe crew changes, etc. as they are the backbone of shipping future.

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