World Maritime Day was celebrated this year on September 29. Personally, mariners do so much for the billions of peoples on this planet, I think one day is not enough to thank them for all the sacrifices they make. Even if you’ve never seen an ocean, you owe them a huge debt.
Here are a few facts about mariners and the industry that you may not be aware of. It’s a tough business to be in whether you’re just starting out or the VP of a huge shipping company.
World Maritime Day was first established as an arm of the United Nations in 1978.
There are over a hundred thousand merchant marines in the United States alone. There are over a million worldwide.
The International Maritime Organization is an agency of the United Nations responsible for the safety, security, and pollution of ships globally.
Living and working on a ship is a dangerous job. Every year hundreds of mariners die in mishaps aboard the ship.
Last year this time twenty-eight crew members of the Faro sailed straight into hurricane Joaquin and perished.
Over 75% of casualties at sea are due to human error. Some sources put the figure closer to 95%.
One of the greatest challenges to the shipping industry is a shortage of engineering officers. These are needed to run ships far more sophisticated than they were just a few years ago.
Close to ninety percent of goods used around the world are delivered by ships.
Over 50,000 ships are out there on the high seas right now, or have just arrived in port, or are now getting under way.
The Maritime Labour Convention protects 1.5 million mariners globally by setting the gold standard for regulations for living and working on a ship.
According to Maritime Insight, the busiest ports in the world in descending order are: Singapore; Shanghai; Hong Kong; Busan, South Korea; Ningbo, China; Guangzhou, China; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Qingdao, China; and finally Rotterdam. This is based on total tonnage shipped through their ports.
Based on the most recent statistics of the United States government, the top five busiest ports in the United States are in descending order: Port of South Louisiana; Houston, Texas; NY and New Jersey; Beaumont, Texas; and Long Beach, California.
Nature, the International Weekly Journal of Science revealed that 1.12 billion tons of CO2 comes from ships. That’s four percent of the world’s output, double of what everyone previously thought.
A huge trend toward using LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) is underway in an effort to help clean the oceans.
The average container ship has a crew of around nineteen.
According to the website of Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association, WISTA is an “international organization for women in management positions… in the maritime transportation business.” Unlike the days of pirates, the maritime industry doesn’t exclude women from any facet of its business. If you have something to offer, don’t hesitate to check them out.
At this very moment on thousands of ships out there on the seas and in ports around the world men and women far from their families are making very real sacrifices so the goods you take for granted on the store shelves are delivered safely and timely. Say a little prayer for them tonight. Moreover, if you know a mariner personally, email or text him or her. And when they complete their journey, hold them just a little tighter before they go back out to sea.
The Uncommon Mariner
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… There are millions of merchant marines in the world serving on ships of all sizes including freighters and oil tankers. The Philippines are the most represented in the field with over 700,000. Without the sacrifice of these men and women, world commerce would come to a halt. Wall Street may be the key to our financial institutions; trucks the key to shipping goods overland; but sailors manning the ships out on the sea are the glue that holds the world economy together.
… The average mariner can expect to be away from port for months at a time. It is probably the number one issue that professional mariners would change if they could. Some companies have started offering sailors year round contracts with a steady salary thus mollifying the sacrifice of months away from family. For most mariners, the issue is far from resolved.
… Though entry level mariners gain their education from the school of hard knocks, those interested in making a career of it must earn degrees or take courses to qualify themselves for better paying positions. In some countries, they must appear before boards whose members are sometimes described by sailors as being rude, unfair, and often outdated in their own knowledge. This makes advancing oneself difficult.
… Because of the economic climate today, many shipping companies are cutting back on ships and jobs. This leaves less good jobs for qualified mariners who work hard to promote themselves.
… Being a mariner is not a job for pansies. Hazards abound and death at sea, although not commonplace, happens. Dying thousands of miles from a loved one is difficult. Imagine the emotional and financial stress for family back home when they receive word their husband, father, or son has died at sea.
… One of the real hazards at sea is still from pirates. They often attack a ship, take what is of value including personal possessions of sailors, then leave. Those are the lucky ones. Other pirates, well-armed and ruthless, think nothing of brutalizing crew members. Still others take the crew as hostage and will not surrender them or the ship till a ransom of thousands of dollars has been paid.
… From Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean, we have learned the common cause of death for mariners is pirates or drowning. It may surprise you to know that top causes of death are accidents. Some are from falling from great heights; others from falling overboard. One of the greatest hazards comes from confined space. Depending on the type of space, the danger could be from fire, electrocution, poisonous gasses, crushing from loose cargo, high temperatures, or injury from slipping on wet surfaces. And this list is far, far from definitive.
We owe an incredible debt to mariners whether they answer the call of the sea for money or adventure. Include in that group commercial fishermen, members of the merchant marines, ferry and tugboat operators, workers on cruise ships, and many more brave men and women who know what the demands of life on board a ship entails.
And make no mistake about it. The men and women who serve in the United States Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines and around the world are a special breed of mariners. Along with the aforementioned, they willingly put themselves in harm’s way for their country not only in war time but in times of crisis when life, limb, and property hang in the balance.
Much has been made of the dangers from pirates these past several years. With more than one sailor losing his life to these ruthless cutthroats, they are a force to be reckoned with. The luckier ones have been held ransom while loved ones a world away wait for years in dread and uncertainty.
But pirates aren’t the only peril mariners face when the last vestiges of land disappear. As stately and rugged as they are, ships today still must face the ferocity of storms at sea. How many men and women lost their lives just in this past year because of storms? Only the other day, a Russian trawler went down within minutes with fifty-four dead and fifteen missing. The death toll would have been far worse if not for nearby sailors risking their lives to save those in the frigid, choppy waters.
Old or poorly maintained ships are yet another hazard many mariners around the world must deal with. Alas, it’s a fact of life that for some companies the bottom line supersedes the lives of those who serve on their ships.
Ask any mariner working on a fishing boat or cargo ship about the dangers they face on any given voyage. It’s not a reflection on the captain or crew. It’s the nature of the job. Equipment doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. Long hours and weariness take their toll, making it easier for accidents to happen.