During a webinar on Seafarers’ Welfare, hosted by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) on behalf of Jamaica’s Ministers of Transport & Mining and Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade, panellists heard how the rotation of cadet berths has become a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic and global travel restrictions.
Captain Devron Newman, Dean of the Faculty of Nautical Studies and Marine engineering at the Caribbean Maritime University in Jamaica, told the discussion that delays in crew changes adversely impact some cadets because they do not have the necessary documentation, such as Certificates of Competency or Proficiency, that a fully-fledged seafarer has to prove their role as a seafarer. The panel agreed that cadets need to be afforded the same designation as qualified seafarers and be given appropriate passage to and from their ship placements.
Urging more nations to recognise seafarers as “essential workers” and allow them to travel to and from their vessels, Rear Admiral (ret’d) Peter Brady, MAJ Director General, said, “There’s an absolute need for crew changes and repatriation. It is critical for them to visit their families to help their mental health, to rest, and to prepare them for their next posting.”
Advising that, at present only about 60 countries have designated seafarers as essential or key workers, Admiral Brady highlighted the need to encourage and influence other member states to recognise the important role seafarers play in the global supply chain and to put in place measures to enable crew changes and repatriations. The current problems represent “a human crisis that also impacts families at home and should be condemned,” he commented. “This is just not good enough for these people who have done so much for us.”
The panel discussion, which took place on World Maritime Day, also featured a seafarer’s point of view. Third Officer Javed Loza stressed that the mental health of seafarers was a crucial factor that should be prioritised by the shipping industry. “Good mental health makes all aspects of life onboard positive,” he said, pointing out that a good positive attitude to work and life at sea can also have a beneficial impact on commercial shipping operations.
His comments were echoed by Dr Hortense Ross Innerarity, Superintendent of Pilotage with the Port Authority of Jamaica, who has spent more than 30 years in the shipping industry. Agreeing that seafarer mental health and crew changes should be priorities across the world, she told the debate, “We are very fortunate we don’t have more accidents at sea.”
Efforts to encourage more young people into the maritime industry are of prime importance, the panellists all concurred. Captain Steven Spence MAJ Director of Safety, Environment and Certification, spoke of the need to improve the visibility of shipping. He urged all seafarers to help raise awareness of their profession and called for shipping companies to invest in cadet training to sustain the industry, while advising that cadets need to show loyalty to companies willing to train them.
Admiral Brady agreed, highlighting the need to promote the seafaring profession ‘every day of the year’ and not just on special ‘maritime days’. He called for the “whole maritime industry” to put promotion of seafaring “constantly on the agenda.”