The hardships seafarers have endured over the last 18 months make this year’s Day of the Seafarer on 25 June particularly poignant, says Svitzer Europe managing director Lise Demant
During this challenging time, the world relied very heavily on crews continuing to go on board vessels – despite the very uncertain conditions – to keep the supply chain running smoothly.
Seafarers have therefore played an instrumental role in keeping the world turning during the pandemic. In many parts of the world, they have done this without scope for relief because of the crew-change crisis.
The truth is that, without seafarers, global trade would have been critically jeopardised, which makes it very difficult to imagine a world without our key workers of the sea.
As towage operators and custodians of the first and the last mile of seaborne trade, the pandemic has also highlighted the small but absolutely vital role towage crews play in the chain of maritime logistics.
Our part of the chain relies on our crew. Towage crews are well-educated and extremely skilled – they simply have to be, to meet the exacting demands of customers.
In addition to advanced nautical skills, they hold vast local knowledge about the ports in which they operate, which is essential to deliver the timeliness and precision the supply chain relies on. That is why Svitzer places the capabilities of our crew at the heart of what we do.
We have seen tug crews worldwide embrace their role as key workers with all the dedication and seriousness we would expect. And this dedication and seriousness has also strengthened pride of the profession for many tug crews, who can clearly see how important their work is.
Honouring the theme of Day of the Seafarer 2021, ‘Fair Future for Seafarers’, requires us all to examine how we can create an equitable and prosperous working environment for our crew.
For Svitzer, the key to this lies in improving safety and standards. A fair future for seafarers should be one where we continue to do everything in our power to make sure jobs go smoothly and safely.
We believe that improving safety for seafarers comes from having an open dialogue with our crews, listening to their needs and continuously exchanging ideas and perspectives across sea and shore to increase mutual understanding and benefit everyone’s welfare.
As part of this approach, we embrace and look at innovation as a way of realising a safer working environment for our crews.
Any towage operation carries an element of risk that can potentially make work dangerous.
That is why we always aim to eliminate all or part of the risk crews are exposed to. Technology and innovation are great allies in making this possible. This is the case with an on-deck, automated catching arm we are currently trialling, which will limit the tug crew’s exposure to hazards on the front deck while the tug connects with the assisted vessel.
We are also excited to see how radar and camera-based situational awareness technology is rapidly making inroads to our industry, which provides the tug master with better visibility in adverse weather.
After a year like none in memory, it is right that we thank and celebrate the silent efforts of those who have preserved our standard and quality of life.
I am extraordinarily proud of the work still being undertaken by Svitzer’s crews to get us out of the other side of this crisis.
We must now look forward and do all we can to ensure the ‘Fair Future for Seafarers’ that the IMO is celebrating this year. At Svitzer, we are excited to play our part – via technology, innovation, standards and safety – to make this vision a reality.
*Lise Demant is managing director of Svitzer Europe