The focus on seafarers comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary and unprecedented demands on seafarers. Hundreds of thousands faced and are still facing extended sea times, going months at sea without seeing families and loved ones.

The crew change crisis in 2020 has highlighted seafarersʹ exceptional contribution as key and essential workers, on the front line of delivering world trade through a pandemic and in ordinary times,

...IMO stated, announcing the theme.

Meeting for its 32nd extraordinary session held by correspondence, the IMO Council endorsed the theme following a proposal by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. The 2020 World Maritime Day will be celebrated on 24 September 2020, with an online event organized by the IMO Secretariat.

As explained, the theme will provide flexibility to the Secretariat, Member States and NGOs in consultative status to focus on seafarers as the people at the heart of shipping, while also allowing for activities to delve into specific topics relevant to the role of the seafarer in safety, maritime security, environmental protection and seafarersʹ well-being.

Through these difficult times, the international community has seen how the ability for shipping services and seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical supplies and food, has been central to responding to, and eventually overcoming, this pandemic. This could not happen without the professionalism and dedication of the worldʹs seafarers,

...Mr. Lim said.

The World Maritime theme for 2021 also links to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - particularly SDG 4 on education and training; SDG 8 related to decent work; SDG 9 on innovation and industry, which links to the promotion of a resilient maritime sector; and SDG 5 on gender equality, linked to efforts to promote seafaring as a career for all, including women, in particular.

Moreover, the theme can be viewed as an extension of the theme for 2020, namely "Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet" as seafarers are at the core of that theme, as well.

In 2020, the 10th iteration of the Day of the Seafarer campaign also took on the theme "Seafarers are key workers".