By Awazie Emmanuel Sab
Today is the 25th of June, which marks World Seafarers Day. A day to honor the contribution and sacrifice of past and present sailors all over the world
I want to use this opportunity to especially remember our colleagues, friends, and all sailors who lost their lives on duty, as well as the ones who died at sea and whose bodies were never found.
I pray God forgives them their sins and receives them in heaven.
As we reflect on the past, it is remarkable to think about how sailors navigated the seas without the technology we have today. They had no SART, no EPIRB, no Pyrotechnics, no GMDSS equipment for communication, no detailed charts, no liferafts, no lifebuoys, and very limited safety equipment.
It is astounding to think about the courage and resilience they possessed.
In my opinion, one figure who played a significant role in making sailing more accessible is not Christopher Columbus, who discovered America, or even Mungo Park, who discovered the River Niger, but Gerardus Mercator.
Have you heard of this name before? If your answer is no, you’re not a sailor.
It was Mercator who developed the terrestrial chart projection that we still use today, revolutionizing navigation and allowing sailors to navigate more accurately. In short, he literally placed the world on a table. Today, we can sail anywhere in the world by just drawing our passage plan with the right and most up-to-date charts.
His work paved the way for modern navigation techniques like ECDIS, which we’re all using on our different Ships today.
We must also recognize and pay tribute to the countless sailors who dedicated their lives to exploring the world, often at great personal risk. Their bravery and determination shaped the world as we know it today.
However, while it is easier and more enjoyable to sail in modern times, it is disheartening that in some countries like Nigeria, sailors still face challenges reminiscent of the Christopher Columbus era.
Many Nigerian sailors endure poor working conditions, a lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequate maintenance onboard, insufficient food provisions, and delayed or meager salaries.
It is crucial for NIMASA and the Nigerian authorities to take the welfare and rights of sailors seriously so that they can compete on a level playing field with their counterparts worldwide. Ensuring better working conditions, proper PPE, regular maintenance, fair salaries, and timely payment is not only a matter of justice but also essential for Nigeria to thrive in the maritime industry.
On this World Seafarers Day, let us acknowledge the hardships faced by past sailors and advocate for the improvement of living and working conditions for all seafarers, especially those in Nigeria.
Only then can we truly celebrate the progress made in making sailing safer and more enjoyable!
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- Captain Emmanuel Sab is a sailor and ship captain