This year, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) theme for Day of the Seafarer, celebrated on 25th
June, is ‘Your voyage – then and now, share your journey’. Ricardo, an able-bodied seaman from the Caribbean, shares his journey and what has changed since his father and grandfather joined the industry.
Seafarer life is a constant plotting of bearing. This 2022, on the Day of the Seafarer, the invitation is to 'share your VOYAGE – Then and Now'. Share your journey – I said: ‘not only with myself, but my family also too (Dad and GrandDad)’ to ask ourselves this specific question.
I am Ricardo Javier Finol, 27 years old, able-bodied seaman (AB) from the Caribbean, who, like my grandfather Elio Finol, a Naval Welder, and my father Gerardo Finol, Master on near-coastal voyage, have supported the development of the maritime industry in Venezuela and other countries in the Americas.
My grandfather Elio Finol, who passed away two years ago, dedicated himself to naval welding in Lake Maracaibo, when the oil boom in my country allowed the arrival of tugboats, oil tankers, among other ships. He told me (around three years ago) that he entered the industry on May 13, 1963 with Tidewater Inc. – Wooo!Oil tanker did not have a double hull! It could be a good comparison.
My father Gerardo Finol (pictured below), who recently received his rank as Master on near-coastal voyage, saves good memories about his first journey. He started on in the late 1980s, on Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, with a tugboat from the company Tidewater Inc. called ‘Mammoth Tide’, which was an offshore tug. It was a conventional tugboat; nowadays tugboats are azimuthal, that is, their propellers can rotate 360 degrees, using a joystick. Like a videogame, not really! It’s a big responsibility to command a ship. Today, he continues to navigate and advise in the maritime area in the Caribbean.
And then me, little Ricardo. I remember when I finished my university degree – I am a lawyer – in 2017, I received an opportunity to sail in the Caribbean, Curacao, on the ‘Bourbon Opale’. It was where I first met a ship, a big supply vessel, and adapted to the new technologies required for navigation; however, I always shared my experiences with my father, comparing: life on board is about gaining pounds, yes! I gained about 40 pounds on my first trip, I was only 21 years old. The language required on board is English, seamen were from different nationalities, the navigation instruments are very modern – I could say that astronomical navigation, it is left alone of support, because all the equipment are electronic navigation – likewise the use of networks and maritime communication. The role that the maritime workers' unions have played together with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has served as a voice to update maritime life, especially the recognition of seafarers as keyworkers in the year 2020.
However, I would like to share words from the Secretary General of the IMO, Kitack Lim, who is also a seaman: ‘My own sea voyage has enriched my life. It allowed me to gain seamanship skills on ships and then apply that knowledge and experience on land.’ Certainly, the experiences serve you to grow in life, to value each moment that is lived – be on land, or on board – and understand that we all have a specific function on earth. My last expedition was on the ‘Bourbon Pearl’ in Willemstad, Curaçao, in 2019, although I visited a ship in Cartagena de India, Colombia, ‘HOEGH Grace’, in the same year.
Another aspect that I would like to share about the pandemic in the industry is the recognition and appreciation of seafarers at a global level, especially in ports, and I want to mention one of those that I have had the opportunity to visit – the Port Arthur International Seafarers Center in Texas (pictured below), where foundations dedicated to the accompaniment of seafarers provide spaces and unique attention to those of us in the maritime industry.
‘This noble profession is something that I hold close to my heart and for many of us, our voyages are the start of a lifelong maritime journey’ that becomes memories, part of us and that will be until the end of our lives. Each #SeafarerJourney is unique. Thank you, International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), for promoting welfare and supporting seafarers.