At the IMO for the IMO/ILO “Work at Sea” Conference. Pictured (from left to right): the Rev. Paul Trathen, Mission to Seafarers; Dirk Obermann, Deutsche Seemannsmission; Phil Schifflin, Director, SCI Center for Mariner Advocacy; and Tim Hill, Stella Maris.

SCI’s Center for Mariner Advocacy Director Phil Schifflin recently attended the “Work at Sea” conference, which was jointly hosted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) at the IMO Headquarters building in London. The event was the first time in the history of the two organizations that they conducted a joint high-level conference with both the Secretary-General of the IMO, Mr. Kitack Lim, and the Director-General of the ILO, Mr. Gilbert F. Houngbo, jointly presiding. 

The conference focused on the “human element” in the maritime sector—sharing experiences and views on ensuring the rights of seafarers and fishers, and identifying gaps in the current regulatory framework to improve it going forward. There was universal agreement that it was time for a new “social contract” with seafarers and fishers to improve their well-being and job satisfaction. 

The importance of establishing a new “social contract” was highlighted as crucial to counteract the current trend of insufficient recruits entering the maritime career path at sea and the rising number of existing seafarers and fishers opting to leave the profession. The discussion also centered around the imminent and swift transformations expected in the career field, with vessels evolving toward increased autonomy, digitalization, and environmental sustainability. Additionally, there was a recognized necessity for a “just transition” as the maritime workforce is retrained to meet the demands of future vessel operations. The results of the one-day conference will help chart the course for both organizations as they attempt to address these critical issues.