Rebuilding Somalia’s rich seafaring culture

25 Jun 2014

Rebuilding Somalia’s rich seafaring culture

Mogadishu - The world today marks the 4th annual International Day of the Seafarer, aimed at celebrating the significant contribution of over 1.4 million seafarers and building awareness on their sacrifice and welfare

The stretch of the Indian Ocean along the coast of Somalia has been synonymous with piracy. By 2011, attacks on ships by Somali pirates had risen to 175 attacks. Today, the threat of piracy has significantly reduced, with just 13 attacks in 2013. However, some 50 seafarers are still held hostage by the pirates.

While pre-civil war Somalia boasted an impressive fleet of merchant ships and skilled sailors, today’s seafarers have to compete for few opportunities, but most are undeterred, and remain determined to redeem a proud, seafaring tradition.

“I started going out to sea when I was 10 or 11. I would go fishing with my father and grandfather,” says 43 year old Jeylani Nur as he lugs his day’s catch to the fish market in Hamarweyne.

Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, and after two decades of war, the relative stability it is currently experiencing has seen Somalis seeking it’s looking to exploit the resources that come with it. As piracy continues to decline, stakeholders are working to ensure opportunities for the country’s seafarers.

In July 2013, Somalia signed an agreement to re-establish its Coast Guard; other ongoing initiatives include a marine school to train fishermen and other sailors. With the support of the United Nations Assistance in Somalia (UNSOM) and other partners, the Federal Government of Somalia is also putting in place key legislation and policy frameworks that will govern maritime affairs.

“Maritime trade is the engine of the global economy. Without ships, bulk transport of essential raw materials, affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not possible,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the International Day of the Seafarer. “This engine is powered by the 1.5 million seafarers, many of whom are from developing countries.”

“Every day, they face many difficulties and brave many dangers to keep the global economy afloat and help ensure that the benefits of globalization are distributed more evenly,” he added.