Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Today is “Day of the Seafarer.” The day honours the invaluable contribution seafarers make to international trade and the world economy, often at great personal cost to themselves and their families. This year’s theme is “Your Voyage, Then and Now”
Captain Sherry-Ann Wilson, one of the first female captains in the industry in Guyana, knows this all too well. Being in the profession for 10 years, Wilson said to be celebrated is an overwhelming feeling, as not many know the daily struggles seafarers experience. For instance, “When the entire world would have been shutting down, seafarers, quoting the words of the minister, still had to work and we had to get commodities from point A to point B and when persons realised that hey, we need this thing, seafarers are the ones that’s leading, getting things done, that is when we were appreciated. I am glad that this day is set aside for us so that we can be celebrated.”
Captain Jermine Blackman, a 21-year-old-old veteran in the profession, shared similar sentiments like his colleague. “It is good that they have recognised us because the majority of the times you hear the airplane pilots getting recognised, but I am not aware of any plane that took a boat anywhere but there are vessels that take planes to different destinations. Our job is very serious, the responsibility is very high. There is a saying, heavy is the head that wears the anchor. So, at all times the captain has to be thinking because he has to think about passenger safety, safety of property, life at sea and stuff like that. So, it is very challenging, but at times fun,”
Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill, on Friday, at a forum with seafarers made a promise to meet with them to address their working conditions and other issues. The promise, though welcomed, is said to be two years late. Seafarers are paid low wages/salary and work for long hours. The minister admitted, “We want to do more for you, so that you can do more for all of us because this industry, your work is so important and so key that even if sufficient attention was not paid prior, recognition of the need for an engagement and working with seafarers has certainly taken front burner.”
Citing the government’s desire to speak with various representatives and the stakeholders to improve guaranteed conditions for the health, safety, and wellbeing of seafarers, the Minister admitted the government cannot continue just doing what it has been doing. In the meantime, the Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Co (GT&T) in partnership with the oil companies have provided a special mobile plan for seafarers. The plan which costs $2999 will afford the workers 10GB data, 300 minutes of talk time and 500 SMS. In apparent recognition of the incentive by the telephone and oil companies, the minister proposed the possibility of approaching insurance companies for customised packages for seafarers.