Monrovia - The United Seamen, Ports and General Workers’ Union of Liberia (USPAGWUL), with support from APM Terminal Liberia and other partners, have commemorated World Maritime Day (WMD) in the Borough of New Kru Town.
WMD is celebrated on September 29 every year. It was first celebrated in 1978 to mark the 20th anniversary of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) convention into force.
Celebrations are held throughout the world to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the marine environment, and to emphasize a particular aspect of the IMO's work.
The 2016 theme is shipping: indispensable to the world. It was chosen to focus on the critical link between shipping and global society and to raise awareness of the relevance of the role of the IMO as the global regulatory body for international shipping.
Serving as guest speaker in Monrovia, the shipping and operations manager of Teatrans Shipping Corporation said the day offers another opportunity to reflect on the state of maritime in Liberia.
Sylvester W. Dortus said those concern with the industry should begin to proffer ideas on how to develop it.
“To be honest with you, your choice of me to perform this task has given me the chance to add my voice to those voices that are campaigning for a better maritime and shipping program in our country—a country with the second largest shipping registry in the world, wherein our seafarers will be trained, well-equipped and given the needed opportunity to board a vessel flying the flags of other countries to practicalize what they have learned.
“Liberia is endowed with vast coastline, an extensive exclusive economic zone and a huge market. One sure way of harnessing these resources will be to ensuring that ships owned and operated by Liberians are empowered and assisted to trade on the nation’s territorial waters.
This is so because shipping is capital intensive and many countries have employed protectionist policies to aid their ship owners,” said Dortus.
He called on government to support Liberian shipping companies in order for them to actively participate in the movement of the nation’s seaborne cargoes.
“This can be achieved through a committed implementation of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act of 2003, otherwise known as the Cabotage Law.
A diligent and effective implementation of the Cabotage Law will not only ensure retention of economic value within the country, it will also support government’s drive for massive job creation and poverty alleviation.
“Liberians also don’t own any of the over 4,000 ships that visit our seaports and jetty every year bringing in all manners of goods, including food, clothes, household items, industrial raw materials, petroleum products, automobiles and luxury goods.
This situation is a source of concern to many maritime experts as it leads to a large amount of foreign exchange,” Dortus added.
For his part, president general of USPAGWUL commended President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for signing the 16 maritime conventions.
Freeman Trokon Gueh disclosed that the 12 of the 16 conventions were in the interest of seafarers.
“So I want for us to clap for Madam Sirleaf [a round of applause]. If the [Liberia] Maritime Authority was going to implement all those conventions, we won’t be sitting here looking for ways to improve the industry.
Maybe the next government will pick-up from where she left it. Mr. Binyah Kesselly also did well in changing the maritime from a bureau to an authority.
“When it was a bureau, there was no authority to engage ship owners on employment opportunities.
And after it got that power, its implementation became a problem because those who are there brought in politics and nothing has been done.
You can’t train and certificate people and later say they are not qualified [to work on vessels].
There is politics playing somewhere,” Gueh revealed.
The celebration ended with a football match in which the executives of the seafarers beat the general membership 1-0 at the Bar Blah sports pitch in Lagoon. Secretary-general Ernest Gargar scored the only goal.
How important is WMD?
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), around 80 percent of global trade by volume and over 70 percent of global trade by value are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide.
These shares are even higher in the case of most developing countries.
The import and export of goods on the scale necessary to sustain the modern world would not be possible without shipping.
Seaborne trade continues to expand, bringing benefits for consumers across the world through competitive freight costs.
There are more than 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo.
The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations and manned by more than a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.
Over the past 50 years and more, IMO has developed and adopted a comprehensive framework of global regulations covering maritime safety, environmental protection, legal matters and other areas.
Under this regulatory framework, shipping has become progressively safer, more efficient and more environment-friendly.
The importance of shipping to support and sustain today's global society gives IMO's work a significance that reaches far beyond the industry itself.
In a message to mark WMD, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said the importance of shipping in supporting and sustaining today’s global society makes it indispensable to the world, and to meeting the challenge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Everybody in the world benefits from shipping, yet few people realize it. We ship food, technology, medicines, and memories.
As the world’s population continues to grow, particularly in developing countries, low-cost and efficient maritime transport has an essential role to play in growth and sustainable development.
“Shipping helps ensure that the benefits of trade and commerce are more evenly spread. No country is entirely self-sufficient, and every country relies on maritime trade to sell what it has and buy what it needs.
Much of what we use and consume in our everyday lives either has been or will be transported by sea, in the form of raw materials, components or finished articles.
“Maritime transport is the backbone of global trade and the global economy.
The jobs and livelihoods of billions of people in the developing world, and standards of living in the industrialized and developed world, depend on ships and shipping.
“The shipping industry has played an important part in the dramatic improvements in global living standards that have taken millions of people out of acute poverty in recent years.
“It will be just as critical for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the plan agreed by all global leaders last year for people, peace, planet prosperity and partnership.
Yet the vast majority of people are unaware of the key role played by the shipping industry, which is largely hidden from view,” Ban explained.
In his message, IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim said they have a critical role to play on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Shipping and IMO have a major role to play in translating the momentum generated by these agreements into tangible improvements in the lives of the people we serve.
In today's economy, people all over the world rely on ships to transport the commodities, fuel, foodstuffs, goods and products on which they depend.
Maritime transport is the backbone of international trade and global markets.
“Ships have never been so technically advanced, so sophisticated, never carried so much cargo, never been safer and never been so environment-friendly as they are today.
It is thanks to this global fleet and global workforce of over one million seafarers that the import and export of goods on the scale necessary to sustain the modern world can take place.
“But, if the benefits of globalization are to be evenly spread, all countries must be able to play a full and active part in shipping.
Sustainable economic growth, employment, prosperity and stability can all be enhanced through developing maritime trade, improving port infrastructure and efficiency, and promoting seafaring as a career – especially within the developing world.
“IMO's work makes a strong contribution in all of these areas. Seaborne trade brings benefits to us all, through competitive freight costs.
The transport cost element in the shelf price of consumer goods is negligible, for a product transported by sea. With its impressive environmental performance, shipping is also a driver of 'green growth',” said Lim.
In Liberia, the celebration was also supported by Joden Shipping, Atlantic Shipping Agency (ASA), Bushrod Shipping Stevedoring Agency (BSSA), Lelee Shipping and Amasco Shipping Agency.