Seafarers are key workers


The Day of the Seafarer is celebrated on June 25 each year in recognition of the men and women who take to the oceans day after day to procure and provide for the needs of nations and peoples around the world. This year the theme is Seafarers are key workers.

At the Oceana Group, we pay tribute to those who traverse and work the oceans to sustain economies and livelihoods.

Oceana group CEO Imraan Soomra said: “There is never a time more important to honour our seafarers than the present.”

According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), seafarers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods such as food, medicines and medical supplies.

However, the pandemic has made working conditions incredibly difficult as issues such as restricted port access, re-supply, crew changeovers and repatriation have all been severely interrupted.

The IMO has called on all member states to recognise seafarers as key workers and to provide them with the support needed during the pandemic.

Today, Oceana pays tribute to our own seafarers in South Africa, Namibia and the United States where we have our operations, and also to seafarers around the world.

South Africa, with some 3,000 kilometres of coastline and surrounded by three Oceans – the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Ocean – has a rich seafaring history, but Covid-19 has turned the world as we know it upside down.

The Cape West Coast, where a number of Oceana’s operations are based, is one of five hotspot areas identified in the Western Cape.

Oceana has worked hard to ensure that stringent protocols are in place and observed by all crews before sailing.

Small-scale fishers dotted all along South Africa’s coastline have been left even more vulnerable – from a health and safety as well as a livelihood perspective – with landmark fishing communities such as Hout Bay in Cape Town and Saldanha Bay on the Cape West Coast having been incredibly hard hit with Covid-19 infections.

At first, unable to take to the waters due to the imposition of their lockdown, their incomes suffered and even after being allowed to fish it has been a struggle as their markets in the form of restaurants and other eateries disappeared overnight.

Oceana has joined hands with Government, Fish SA, and relief organisations such as the Peninsula School Feeding Association to provide food parcels as one means of relief to this hard-hit sector. The Group has also joined hands with Gift of the Givers and Rise Against Hunger to assist distressed communities across South Africa.

“We recognise that life at sea is not easy, encompassing as it does extreme weather conditions and tremendous personal sacrifice to be away from families and loved ones for extended periods,” Soomra said. “This has been made even more treacherous by the Covid-19 pandemic and our deepest gratitude goes to the men and women who sail our oceans. We trust each day for your safe return and be assured that your efforts are deeply appreciated.”