Day of the Seafarer

Friday, 25 June 2021, marks the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Day of the Seafarer.

Around the coast, Svitzer Australia tugs will sound their ships’ horns in solidarity with seafarers around the globe with this year’s theme focusing on a fair future for seafarers.

The International Chamber of Shipping, along with partners, encourages ships in ports around the world to sound their horns at noon local time in honour of the IMO’s Day of the Seafarer, to draw attention to the plight of seafarers during covid-19 and advocate to prioritise access to the vaccine for them.

There are over 1.6 million seafarers globally, and their work helps keep countries supplied with food, fuel, goods and other essential supplies, including vital medical equipment.

While ships horns are usually only used under internationally agreed rules to ensure safe navigation and prevent collisions, on Seafarer’s Day, they serve to remind us of the immeasurable contribution seafarers make to all our lives.


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers found themselves both on the front line of the global response and subject to difficult working conditions surrounding uncertainties and difficulties around port access, re-supply, crew changeovers and repatriation.

The 2021 Day of the Seafarer campaign encourages governments to support seafarers amid the pandemic and calls for a fair future for seafarers.

In the lead up to Day of the Seafarer, Svitzer Australia spoke to our crew in ports around Australia and Papua New Guinea to talk about what a fair future for seafarers looks like to them and their experiences as a seafarer. 

Ruth Philip, Second Mate – Port Moresby, PNG

Ruth Philip is second mate onboard Svitzer Vision stationed offshore at the Kumul Marine Terminal in the Gulf of Papua.

Ruth says the most challenging aspect for her through COVID19 was the inability to take shore leave or have time off the ship during port calls in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Speaking to a fairer future for seafarers, she advocates for increased access to training opportunities in Papua New Guinea to improve access to maritime careers and calls for greater diversity in the profession.

“My expectations for life as a seafarer is to enjoy every working moment on any ship I should join. I would like to see diversity, and it would be really nice to work among more females,” Ruth says.

George Leggett, Master – Port Botany

In Sydney, George Leggett is a Master, welcoming and assisting vessels from all over the world. Throughout the pandemic, he said this was one of the challenges of the last 12 months, welcoming ships into port with the knowledge that some crew onboard were experiencing extended stints away from family due to travel restrictions and border closures.

“We just knew they weren’t getting home; they didn’t have the luxury of finishing work that night and going home to see their loved ones – who may or may not have been ill or losing family members. We had the luxury of going home.”

Christian Messer, Master – Melbourne and Victorian Ports

Christian is a third-generation seafarer with his father and grandfather before him working in the maritime industry.

“I think it is really important for us that we are adaptable and that we are proactive in maintaining the industry.” 

Christian highlights the criticality of seafaring in the delivery of goods and commodities to Australia and promoting the essential role seafarers have in our day to day lives.

“They (seafarers) deserve recognition because they form such a critical part of our day-to-day. Every time you go into a shop to buy a piece of furniture, it has most likely come into your country on a ship.”

Crawford Mackenzie, Chief Engineer – Brisbane

Crawford Mackenzie is just shy of his fiftieth working anniversary (early next year!) with Svitzer Australia and has seen many changes and developments in his time on the tugs.

“Who would have thought that I would be changing hand tools for laptop computers in order to check my engine’s performances.”

And with years of experience and commitment, Crawford has some advice for new starters in the industry;

“Be dedicated, work hard and follow your passions!” 

Thank you to Ruth, Crawford, George, and Christian for sharing your passion, pride and dedication for the maritime industry and your love of being on the water.

For more information, please contact:
Gabrielle Hickson at [email protected] or on 0419 816 206


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Sara Gerdner Kalle
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