Monday, 25 June 2012

Day of the Seafarer

Today is International Day of the Seafarer.

Ok, you say.. so what?

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you should by now, have a pretty good idea of what it is I do for a living. I drive ships. At the moment I drive cruise ships. But with the ticket I have, I could quite as easily drive tankers (oil, gas, chemicals), or container ships (er... pretty much all the shiny stuff you buy in shops), or bulk carriers, (grain, ores, scrap metal, coal, cotton... anything solid in BIG quantities) or ferries (cheap way to pop to any number of places on this continent, and you can take your car), or cable/pipe laying ships (how oil gets from the north sea to here, and you like your communications don't you!), or car carriers, (I don't need to tell you what they transport do I?) or any number of small support type vessels (buoy tenders, tugs, standby vessels for oil rigs, etc).

All these vessels, basically, make your life possible. 90% of the world's trade is done by sea. Real trade, not hedge funds and mythical money that moves about mysteriously without anyone ever seeing anything tangible, but real trade. Stuff you can pick up and hold and use and enjoy, your clothes, your gadgets, even a lot of your food, all comes to you by sea.

We used to have a proud seafaring tradition here in Britain, everyone knew who we were and how important our jobs were to the country. Sadly, these days, I tell people I am in the Merchant Navy and they leap to the conclusion that I am in the Royal Navy. These are not the same thing. No. The Royal Navy, gods bless them, are a fine and wonderful lot of people who are part of our nations defences, and work alongside the Army and Royal Air Force. The Merchant Navy is difficult to define in some respects, if you're going to get finickity about things, but, when it boils down to it, all ships, unless they are part of a county's military defence, are part of the Merchant Navy.

As you can imagine, there are thousands and thousands of ships, and each of those is crewed by people: people of all nationalities, people of all religions, races and creeds, people like me, and like you. And you never see us. That is what today is about. To remind you that we are here, and how much you rely on us to make your life happen. Seafaring is, statistically, the most dangerous profession in the world (out of this, fishing is the most dangerous). At any given time there will be some of us out there facing terrifying storms and high seas: or piracy; or simply the loneliness and heartbreak of being far, far away from those we love, for months on end.

So spare a thought for those at sea today, take a moment to appreciate how that shiny computer you are reading this on got to you (Made in China?), how the food you ate tonight reached your table (look at the label, New Zealand Lamb? Danish pork? Veg grown in Spain? Bananas from Dominica?), the toy your child adores (made in Taiwan?)..... It's a career we chose, but without us, your life would be much emptier, so please take a second to say thank you for seafarers.

A couple of videos for you to peruse...

Follow @IMOHQ  and @SeafarerDay on twitter to find out more. And me of course @size4riggers

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