*CHIEF OF THE NAVAL STAFF ADMIRAL MUHAMMAD AMJAD KHAN NIAZI MESSAGE ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD MARITIME DAY (WMD-21)*
World Maritime Day (WMD) is celebrated each year to highlight the contributions of International Maritime Industry in world’s economy and to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and marine environment. This year’s theme ‘Seafarers at the Core of shipping’s future’ is intended to pay tribute to the professionalism and resilience of seafarers and recognize their indispensable role in securing vital global supply chains in extraordinarily challenging times.
Pakistan is blessed with over 1,000 km coastline and Exclusive Economic
Zone (EEZ)/ Continental Shelf of 290,000 sq km with abundant resources. Maritime Sector is the bedrock of Pakistan’s economy as 95% of our trade is seaborne. However, this realization is yet to permeate in our national reckoning and intellectual discourse. Pakistan Navy, being a stakeholder in shaping the maritime thought in the country, is playing its due role in creating the desired maritime awareness and to stimulate exploitations of our immense, though untapped Blue Economy. With CPEC already in motion, maritime activities in Pakistan are increasing manifold. Therefore, potential of sustainable development in the maritime sector of Pakistan needs to be optimally exploited to contribute towards national economy.
World economy is facing major challenge of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has affected all walks of life. Particularly, it has placed extraordinary demand on seafarers. With thousands stranded on ships for months beyond their original contracts, unable to be repatriated due to national travel restrictions. Similarly, many are unable to join ships and earn a living. This crew change crisis is a form of humanitarian emergency that threatens the safety of shipping. Travel restrictions and lack of shore leave are adding to the difficulties being faced by seafarers in the ongoing pandemic.
In order to ease their suffering, there is a need to reflect on the importance of seafarers as vital human workforce. In my capacity of Chief Technical Advisor to the Government on all matters connected with Maritimes Affairs, I suggest that seafarers may be designated as ‘key workers’ so as to ensure their travel to and from ships without delays. They may also be enabled priority vaccination for this purpose. In addition, World Day of Seafarers (25 June) may also be celebrated in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders including Pakistan Seafarer, Union, for their contribution to the national economy.
Pakistan Navy, apart from its core tasks, is fully cognizant to the importance of national human resources driving the merchant fleet around global maritime highways. In this regard, wellbeing of future seafarers, their appropriate training and qualification is being ensured at Pakistan Marine Academy.
On this important day, we pledge to make concerted efforts for sustainable development of the maritime sector in Pakistan while addressing the associated challenges. In this regard, I look forward to a profound and cumulative response by all stakeholders.