Time to take Sri Lanka’s Maritime Aspirations to New Frontiers

June 25 Day of the Seafarer: 12,000 Additional Seafaring Jobs by 2025

Seafarers move more than 80 percent of the world’s cargo, and are key drivers of the global economy. As we celebrate the 10th International Day of the Seafarer, I wish to extend my gratitude to seafarers around the globe who are at sea on behalf of all of us. This year’s theme is “Seafarers Are Key workers” recognizing the brave seafarers who are on the frontline amidst the fight against a global pandemic.

Even as we commemorate this special day as a mark of respect for our colleagues at sea, I am saddened by the fact that many seafarers are still stranded at sea in an unprecedented manner during these times of uncertainty. Due to COVID-19, many seafarers are forced to stay onboard well over the stipulated maximum sea time as per international conventions. While seafarers deserve our appreciation and respect every day, it is vital now more than ever before, that their work is recognized and humanitarian action is taken.

This crisis indeed is profoundly serious, and my thoughts go out to my fellow Sri Lankan seafarers who are at sea for a prolonged time onboard. It is a difficult time for those at sea and for their families, and it is critical that organisations and governments work together to find solutions to this crisis. In Sri Lanka, we are also working with relevant authorities to allow more crew changes to take place in Colombo, Galle, Hambanthota and Trincomalee, in accordance with new safety and health regulations, in a bid to create more opportunities for Sri Lanka seafarers who are awaiting their next assignment.

We have a formidable challenge before us, but I remain optimistic. As the line Minister for Ports and Shipping, I envision strong maritime/ blue economy for Sri Lankabeyond2020througha clustered approach.

Seafarer employment, Marine human resources, Maritime education, and training (MET)play a pivo1al role in Sri Lanka’s maritime future. We are closely working with the Secretariat of Merchant Shipping and the industry to convert “Sri Lankan Seafaring” into a globally respected brand in the Marine HumanResourcespace.PriortoCOVJD-19, our ministry was working on roadshow programs to showcase our capabilities to countries such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, Japan, China and Norway, who collectively account for about 60 percent of the global fleet.

A BIMCO manpower update published in 2015 projects significant global shortage of Navigational and Engineering Officers and Sri Lanka can be well-placed to address this need.

As per His Excellency, The President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s leadership and The Honorable Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s direction Plans are firmly in place to clinch 10 percent of the projected global shortage of 147,500 Navigational and Engineering Officers by 2025. We have discussed a 360-degree approach to go from 14,000 active seafarers in 2020 to 26,000 by 2025. We will be reevaluating our Maritime training landscape to fit ship owner needs and requirements better without compromising our STCW white list positioning ­reviving Mahapola training is an integral part of this. Furthermore, the Government of Sri Lanka is expected to facilitate and empower Crew Management service providers and seafarers alike and increase recruits into the system, while promoting Sri Lankan seafarers using our diplomatic ties. Thirdly, we are excited about the prospects of promoting the Sri Lankan Ship’s Registry services and we will be announcing benefits to shipowners for employing Sri Lankan seafarers.

I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the industry for taking the lead in marketing our marine human resources. I increasingly see the importance of the Government of Sri Lanka working to enhance Sri Lanka’s maritime sector as a key economic segment.

Finally, it is my pleasure to announce that we are in the process of creating a Mariners Club” to extend our gratitude to our proud seafarers who have not only brought much needed foreign revenue to the country but also fame as great ambassadors of the mother nation.

Seafarers are key workers and their work is embedded in all aspects of our lives. Let us work together to ensure a vibrant and prosperous future for all involved in this sector.

Hon. Johnston Fernando
Minister of Ports and shipping
Government of Sri Lanka

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