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Jun 25, 2018

Belize Celebrates Day of the Seafarers

Belize joined the rest of the world in the celebration of the Day of the Seafarers. To mark the occasion, a tour was conducted aboard the Century Royal Panama, a sugar vessel anchored in Belize’s Harbour. The Belize Port Authority as well as IMMARBE is organizing a series of activities to pay homage to seafarers. When we boarded the vessel today, we found one female seafarer among the hundreds of male mariners. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

For the sixth year in a row, the world has been commemorating Day of the Seafarer; this year, Belize officially joins in the celebration being held under the theme ‘seafarers’ wellbeing.’ Seafarers are the men and women, who work at sea—on cargo vessels, cruise ships and the like—and facilitate the process of trading between countries. Belize’s Port Authority Commissioner Merlene Martinez says that today they are acknowledging seafarers locally and internationally.

 

Merlene Martinez

Merlene Martinez, Port Commissioner, Belize Port Authority

“In 2010, the International Maritime Organization passed a resolution which in effect, it was designed to give recognition to those persons who work on the sea. So basically it is to recognize the contribution that these people make. I particularly like the theme this year because it talks about seafarers’ wellbeing and particularly their mental health. Just imagine to earn your living, you have to be away from your family for weeks and months. Before Facebook and FaceTime, it was even more difficult; now it is a little bit better, but still that separation from family can create its own issues. So the theme this year is focusing on their mental health and encouraging governments and ship owners and agents and all of those people involved to create a better environment for seafarers.”

 

This morning, the Belize Port Authority Belize Coast Guard and IMMARBE facilitated a tour of the Sugar Vessel at anchorage, just pass Stake Bank in Belize’s Harbour. With a crew of about one hundred persons, including stevedores and surveyors as well as technical staff operating the cargo vessel, over ninety percent of traded goods worldwide are transported to and from countries by sea.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, Minister of Transport

“Majority of the goods that imported into a country is imported by sea. I would say about ninety percent or so of the commerce is actually by sea. So today is the observation of the seafarer’s day, June twenty-fifth and it is internationally recognized. And so today we board a vessel to thank them for their service and their contributions to the world’s economy—not just the economy of Belize.”

 

But even as the theme for this year focuses on seafarers’ wellbeing, stevedores say that working countless hours to offload eleven thousand tons of sugar from barges into the cargo vessel is no easy feat. Sleeping conditions for the most part is inadequate. It nevertheless is their bread and butter. Gang Leader Mark Staine has been working the sugar boat for forty years.

 

Mark Staine

Mark Staine, Stevedore

“Out here is very tough because when whether normally comes down, it’s a lot of problem out here; especially in those bad southwest wind blowing out here so it is very hard. Sometimes people believe that we just come and we just give trouble or things like that, but we work very hard out here. It is a hard task.”

 

Duane Moody

“How many of you guys are out here?”

 

Mark Staine

“We have two sections; you have the barge crowd and you have the deck crowd. We have seventeen workers on the deck.”

 

The vessel takes about a month for its four hatches to be filled to capacity with the precious saccharine cargo, before it is shipped to the U.S.  By the time it is ready to set sail, another is calling to port and the cycle repeats itself. On board the vessel today, is the only Belizean female marine and cargo surveyor, Lucrecia Reneau. Her job is no easy task, but she’s been doing it since 2012.

 

Lucrecia Reneau

Lucrecia Reneau, Marine and Cargo Surveyor

“I’m here for quality and quantity control. When I first come onboard, I need to inspect the entire ship for different stuff; make sure that the correct amount of cargo is being put into the ship on a daily basis. And when it is leaving, then I need to seal the ship, seal all the hatches.”

 

Duane Moody

“You stay onboard the ship for the three weeks while it’s here?”

 

Lucrecia Reneau

“Yes, I’m supposed to be here 24/7 until the ship leaves.”

 

Duane Moody

“So how does that work with your family?”

 

Lucrecia Reneau

“Well I have two adult children, fifteen and twenty, so it’s easy for me.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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