Min. Edghill to engage seafarers to improve working conditions
The challenges faced by seafarers will no longer be overlooked, as Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill, is set to meet with them to address their working conditions, as well as other issues.
Minister Edghill made the commitment as Guyana joined the rest of the world in observing ‘Day of the Seafarer,” which is being held under the theme ‘Your voyage – then and now, share your journey.’
“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,” Minister Edghill stated.
The minister highlighted that since taking office, government has taken a number of steps to reposition the sector in light of the developments in the oil and gas sector. He said the interventions have seen the establishment of an oil and gas division at the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD).
Stressing the importance of seafarers, the minister highlighted that the world stood at a stand still when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and ships were not moving. This, he said, led to shortages worldwide, but also opened the eyes to the world, the vital role of seafarers.
“I would like to have a conversation with you through your various representatives and the stakeholders that are here to see how we could improve guaranteed conditions for the health, safety, and wellbeing of seafarers. We cannot continue just doing what we did. The voyage then is totally different from the voyage now, much more is happening,” the minister said.
As of today, seafarers will be benefitting from a special mobile plan from GTT which will afford them 10GB data, 300 minutes of talk time and 500 SMS at just $2999. With that, the minister said there might be need to approach insurance companies for customised packages for seafarers.
Day of the seafarer is designed to recognise the tangible contributions and selfless sacrifices made by seafarers towards the development of the maritime industry. ‘Challenging’ is a word commonly used to describe the job, but ‘rewarding’ follows close behind.
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, Captain Wilson said to be celebrated is an overwhelming feeling, as not many know the daily struggles seafarers experience.
“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 Wilson said.
Captain Jermine Blackman, who has been in the profession for 21 years had similar sentiments like his colleague.
“It is good that they have recognised us because 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,” Captain Blackman stated.
An exhibition was also held showcasing booths from MARAD and other stakeholders in the shipping industry. “Day of the Seafarer” is observed on June 25 each year and was first celebrated here in 2011.