Today, on March 1st 2020, at 12 pm, the same sound emerged from hundreds of ports, as ships around the world sounded their horns in unison for 15 seconds. It was the sound of solidarity, of hope and support, meant as a tribute to the seafarers keeping the shipping industry moving amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The symbolic gesture is part of a bigger solidarity campaign called “Horns of Hope”, which was launched by Abu Dhabi Ports and quickly garnered attention around the world. While ship-owners have been participating in the campaign for a few weeks already, it was especially encouraged for Labour Day by ports and maritime organizations around the world, among them the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“As the world’s standard-setting organisation for the shipping industry, it is heartening to see the Horns of Hope solidarity campaign begun by the UAE has been so enthusiastically adopted by global ports,” Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, said.

Dedicated to the 1.6 million seafarers in the frontlines in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the initiative shines a light on their important work as they transport essential goods such as food and medicine to consumers and hospitals across the world.

This support is of severe importance as seafarers are currently battling their own crisis at sea. Recently published data, compiled by ICS and ITF revealed that 150 000 seafarers are in need of crew changes by May 15th. Due to the travel restrictions put in place after the Covid-19 outbreak, many seafarers have been trapped at sea for weeks. This current situation is threatening to their safety and their mental health. Without actions taken, their number is set to only increase.

‘The new data indicates that 150,000 seafarers are in need of immediate crew change, with the potential for this number to increase significantly until travel restrictions are eased. On Friday 1st May, ships around the world will sound their horns in a salute to these unsung heroes of global trade. We are asking governments to support our seafarers, as they support us, and facilitate coordinated action.’, Guy Platten, Secretary General ICS, said.

Even though it will take a lot of effort and government action to resolve the seafarers’  problems, the Maritime Industry coming together in support of their colleagues at sea, this Labour Day, is surely  a step in the right direction.