BIRMINGHAM : Day of the Seafarer is celebrated annually on 25 June to express thanks to the world’s 1,5 million seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships thereby contributing to the world economy and economic and social well-being. The 2022 Day of the Seafarer theme is “Your voyage – then and now, share your journey,” looking at today’s seafarer voyages and how they have evolved over time.
In recognition of Day of the Seafarer 2022, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU) provided a video message saying:
“Day of the Seafarer provides us with an annual opportunity to reflect on the essential role that seafarers play. With over 80 percent of world trade served by shipping, our quality of life is directly dependent on seafarers for our daily needs from food and fuel to medicines and commodities. Seafarers have faced, and continue to face, extraordinary challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On this day, we recognize, and thank seafarers for their dedication and commitment to ensuring that world trade has continued to function as smoothly as possible despite the many challenges they have faced.
This year’s Day of the Seafarer theme is focused on “Your voyage….” The voyage of WMU has evolved significantly since the University was founded within the framework of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1983. Today, WMU plays a leading role in maritime and ocean education, research, capacity-building and economic development while promoting the role of women in the maritime and ocean sectors. WMU’s voyage has resulted in expansion of our initial MSc in Maritime Affairs offered at our headquarters in Malmö Sweden, to include MSc programmes in Shanghai and Dalian, China, a PhD programme, an MPhil, numerous postgraduate diploma programmes and an LLM offered by distance learning, as well as Executive and Professional Development Courses. New educational offerings this year include a Summer Institute focused on Maritime Decarbonization and an Education for Professional Excellence course on Maritime Administration.
Until the late 1990s, female students made up less than 5% of the Malmö intake. A recruitment strategy with strong support from fellowship donors has resulted in the proportion of female students rising to a third of the annual intake in Malmö and the MSc programmes in China have both achieved gender parity within the past 3 years. A significant number of WMU students in the Malmö MSc programme, as well as WMU faculty, have seafaring backgrounds. Today, there are 5,634 WMU graduates from 171 countries and territories. They serve in positions of prominence around the world as prime minister, ministers and senior maritime officials, directors of shipping companies and ports, and as heads of maritime academies and naval organizations. They hold prominent positions within UN organizations including the current Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr Kitack Lim who was also a seafarer, and many WMU alumni represent their home countries at the IMO and in international forums and organizations.
In addition to our educational offerings, WMU research has expanded significantly in the past decade and includes maritime research priority areas as well as ocean research priority areas with the latter largely addressed by our WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute that was inaugurated in 2018.
Seafarers are very much at the core of our work at WMU. Specifically focused on seafarer welfare, the online, open access Maritime Welfare (MARI-WEL) Professional Development Programme was launched in 2018 in partnership with the ITF Seafarers’ Trust. It is the first programme of its kind that delivers a comprehensive overview of topics and issues related to seafarer welfare, bringing together world-leading experts on seafarer rights, maritime regulations, and welfare issues.
Many areas of research undertaken by WMU are specifically focused on seafarers. Since 2018, the historic MarTID survey has resulted in annual reports providing insight to global maritime training practices, investment and thought. In 2019, WMU released a flagship report entitled “Transport 2040: Automation Technology Employment – the Future of Work”. The forward-looking assessment, produced by WMU and funded by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), investigates how the global transport industry will change as a result of automation and advanced technologies. Work is ongoing today with Phase II of the project focusing specifically on the maritime sector. In 2020, the WMU Culture of Adjustment Report underlined systemic failures in the implementation of the regulatory regime for seafarers’ hours of work and rest. The shocking conclusions of the research have been referenced by UK Parliament regarding seafarers’ hours of work and rest, and I presented the report to a Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006). In 2021, WMU launched an important new book – “The World of the Seafarer: Qualitative Accounts of Working in the Global Shipping Industry”. It addresses the need for a broader understanding of the maritime sector and provides a detailed account of the industry as a complex jigsaw of globally dispersed elements. These are just a few examples of the important seafarer-related work we are undertaking at WMU.
With the most sincere appreciation to our world’s seafarers, I say, your voyage matters immensely to us at WMU. We will work tirelessly through education, research, and capacity building to influence your journey so it is as fulfilling as it can possibly be. Whether you conclude your maritime career at sea, transition to a shore-based role, or take a path that leads you to us at the World Maritime University for advanced education, we hold you in the highest regard, and we thank you for your crucial contribution to our global economy.”
Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry
World Maritime University