As we start the new year, it feels like there is a new hope in the air that was missing for much of 2020, says Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson.
The news of various Covid-19 vaccines is positive, and many countries have designated seafarers and other transportation workers as key workers – our goal now is to ensure they receive prompt access to rapid testing and vaccines to reflect that status. Statements from the European Commission, the UN General Assembly and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body will certainly help our case.
Many countries are starting to incorporate testing in airports so that people can travel, and pressure from the UN, ILO, International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Commission and stakeholder groups like the UN Global Compact is beginning to have an impact as the number of crew changes taking place increases. Meanwhile reports that some charterers continue to refuse voyage deviations to facilitate crew changes is unwelcome news and shows them up for rowing against the tide of public opinion which clearly supports seafarers' rights to repatriation.
The impact of pressure from the Union should not be underestimated in this regard. We have worked tirelessly to ensure that the work of maritime and shipping professionals does not go unnoticed, in the hope that our members can finally be recognised for the vital role they play in our globalised world.
Our Crew Change for Christmas campaign brought renewed attention to maritime and shipping professionals, with a large number of leading industry and political figures lending their voices to the call for seafarers, who have worked beyond their contracts, to be allowed home for the holiday season.
Thank you to those who added your voice to the many activities that took place. Our membership survey showed that over 90% of our members have been impacted by Covid-19. It is clear there will be long-term effects on the shipping industry including the likelihood of a future recruitment crisis. Rest assured that we will be raising these issues at the highest levels.
Now we must move forward, both as a union and as a profession. Last year at this time I spoke of the Union's 2030 Vision, adopted at the general meeting in 2019, being our blueprint for the future. The vision sees the many challenges we face as opportunities to keep our organisation at the cutting edge, responding to globalisation and automation challenges with new services and benefits for our members delivered through extended networks and based on partnership, cooperation and collaboration.
That work was impacted by the pandemic, but it has not gone away. We have adapted and added even more ideas to our plans for modernising and refreshing our membership offer. We remain focused on developing new ways of working, new ways of organising, new ways of campaigning, and new ways of servicing that demonstrate our continued relevance and commitment to our members now and in the future.
Our use of technology has increased exponentially in the last twelve months and the number of members who have been able to join online meetings who would ordinarily have missed out, shows that we need to incorporate these new ways of engagement as permanent changes.
Our members have been able to contact us and interact with us much more, and shipping companies are much more alive to the need for good communications facilities onboard. There is work still to be done but the case is strong, and we now know technology can be utilised effectively.
We will be reaching out to our younger members in the coming months to ensure that their views for a union they want to be a part of in the next twenty to thirty years are front and centre of our plans, as well as looking at new benefits or services which may bring more maritime and shipping professionals into membership.
We look to the new year with renewed optimism and intend to build on the lessons we have learnt over the last year. We will work every day to ensure that our union, our members and the global maritime industry emerges stronger and fit for the future.
Happy New Year! Gelukkig nieuwjaar! Frohes neues Jahr!