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The Day of the Seafarer 2014: a social media success for shipping

The Day of the Seafarer 2014: a social media success for shipping
The corporate world of the shipping industry and social media have not made very comfortable bedfellows, with the exception of a few companies like Maersk Line.

All too often social media it seems is viewed with at best suspicion, and more alarmingly in some cases even fear. It is to some extent understandable that owners and managers do not really want pictures of casualties or videos of their crew doing Gangnam style in the engine room (as I saw the other day) going viral. But in the modern interconnected world there is not much they can actually do about it either.

It is worth noting that the world’s largest source of seafarers – the Philippines – is also one of the top users of Facebook. It was rather fitting then that the IMO took to social media in a big way on Wednesday to promote its annual Day of the Seafarer.

While industry executives continue to complain about shipping being invisible except for accidents the IMO demonstrated how, using largely existing free social media tools, it could broadcast to a far wider audience than normal the important role that seafarers play in the daily lives of ordinary people.

Granted many of the posts seen on Twitter and Facebook came from people in the industry themselves, but they also have many friends and followers, who have nothing to do with shipping, and also see these posts.

There were also many non-shipping people who posted about how, for example, seafarers had brought them the computer they were posting on. And when you get recognition from the likes of actor Stephen Fry, who has a mere 6.96m followers on Twitter, you must be doing something right.

Also given just how many seafarers are on social media it gave them an important avenue to tell the world how proud they are of the job they do – which many did.

Obviously it does not change the many challenges seafarers face day-to-day. But what the IMO did succeed in doing was broadcasting a positive message about seafarers and shipping to a global audience, and that is something the rest of the industry could do well to learn from.