Minister for Culture Dwayne Seymour writes: It gives me great pleasure today (25 June) to commemorate the International Day of the Seafarer. Here in the Cayman Islands our rich maritime heritage plays a very important part in determining who we are as a culture.
One thing that many Caymanians and residents have in common, regardless of how recent our arrival, is that we all feel the pull of the sea that bounds our beautiful Islands.
Yet while there are still a number of Caymanians who make a living on the seas, this is mostly within the local watersports and commercial fishing industries. Most other activity is recreational.
This is a far cry from decades gone by when most Caymanian men went to sea to earn hard currency to support their families.
For their services to the development of this country they deserve our praise. The statues of the seamen and catboat in Heroes Square recognise their contributions. Maritime Heritage is also embedded in our National Culture & Heritage policy. Indeed the Cayman Catboat Club on North Church Street in George Town remains a cultural landmark and has a very special place in all our hearts. The Seafarers Association is also active, as is the Sailing Club and other NPOs in our islands.
Accordingly, as Minister responsible for Culture as well as Health, I was heartened to learn this year that the theme of the international observance this year is focused on the well-being of seafarers.
The campaign that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has organised focuses on well-being, and particularly mental health. It seeks to highlight and showcase best practices and good examples but also, inevitably, bring out areas of concern and examples of shortcomings.
This information will be used to develop specific strategies to tackle stress and other issues affecting seafarers’ mental conditions – and to make these tools available and more widely known.
With so many of us the children and grandchildren of men who went to sea, I believe this is a cause we can all endorse.
I invite all seafarers living locally to visit the International Day of the Seafarer page on the International Maritime Organisation website to learn more about the campaign, and the many useful and even fun ways that they can help to mark the international observance.
Meanwhile, within the Cayman Islands, in January of this year the stipend that Government awards seafarers, increased from KYD550 a year to KYD650. It will rise to KYD750 a year in January 2019. Our objective was to ensure that these persons remain able to enjoy a consistent standard of life, particularly in their golden years when financial well-being is so vital.
I would like to end by noting the good work that the Maritime Authority is doing to promote an awareness of maritime-based professions as potential careers for young Caymanians.
It is reassuring to know that any of our young people who may go on to become seafarers will be working in an industry that actively seeks to promote their well-being.