In line with its commitment to adopting the best practices of the UAE Government Excellence System, and launching initiatives that have global results, the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure in the UAE has launched the ‘Supporting our Blue Army’ initiative to improve the quality of life for seafarers while they are in the UAE. The initiative protects seafarers’ rights with ship owners and operating companies, as well as helps seafarers overcome the challenges they face as a result of the pandemic and travel restrictions.
‘Supporting our Blue Army’ initiative is a comprehensive framework for the Ministry’s achievements that implement the ‘Enhancing Wellbeing’ criterion in the UAE Government Excellence System. The Ministry has dedicated initiatives to care for and support seafarers. This will have a global impact in the countries with trade links that depend on the shipping industry and its unknown soldiers of seafarers.
Commenting on this initiative, Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said: “When talking about the maritime transport sector, the UAE is a unique model. It ranks the 9th best global maritime hub and has some of the largest and most developed ports in the region in terms of infrastructure and digital systems. The UAE is a logistics hub linking global shipping lines and has the major share of the ships that call on the region’s ports, with more than 21,000 ships every year. Over 20,000 local and international maritime companies operate in the UAE with over 17 million containers handled in the UAE ports annually. These operations add significant economic returns to the national economy. All these achievements cannot be made without the dedication of thousands of seafarers who arrive to the UAE’s waters on board ships from across the world.”
Al Mazrouei explained: “For these reasons, we’ve launched the ‘Supporting our Blue Army’ initiative to be one of the first countries to recognise and appreciate marine crews and put them on an equal footing with priority categories such as medical personnel, especially in such circumstances where seafarers played a key role in mitigating the devastating effects on the global economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Al Mazrouei added: “In line with the Ministry’s role and our responsibility to set legislation and laws related to the maritime sector, as well as ensure compliance to these laws, we have been keen that our legal system supports seafarers who contribute to the UAE’s economic development. The latest achievement was the Cabinet resolution regarding marine wrecks and violating ships, which obliges all UAE flag ships and foreign flag ships in UAE waters or calling UAE ports to guarantee the rights of seafarers and fulfil their needs.”
Al Mazrouei emphasised that the Ministry will not tolerate any ship owner or operating company that fails to perform its duties towards seafarers or abandons them on board ships on the UAE shores. The Ministry will take all proactive measures to ensure that the marine system in the UAE does not allow such violations of the rights of seafarers and crews.
‘Supporting our Blue Army’ initiative is a comprehensive framework through which the Ministry develops a strategy that combines all its initiatives and achievements supporting seafarers and protecting their rights. It also aims to provide a national platform for government and private organisations and agencies, as well as build partnerships with local and international NGOs that care for seafarers to improve the quality of their lives.
Sheikh Nasser Majid Al-Qasimi, Assistant Undersecretary for the Infrastructure and Transport Sector at the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, said: “The UAE Government Excellence System and the Sheikh Khalifa Government Excellence Program have always motivated us to develop innovative ideas and projects, as well as adopt best practices. Inspired by this system, particularly the ‘Enhancing Wellbeing’ criterion, we have launched this initiative, which crowns the efforts of the Ministry’s team for several years to protect seafarers and provide better living conditions for them. We are confident that this initiative will have a global impact as thousands of seafarers who come to the UAE will benefit from it. The UAE will be the international benchmark for ensuring the welfare of seafarers and their rights. Ships that violate the rights of seafarers will not be able to enter the UAE waters, and therefore will not be part of the regional trade centre and the global supply chain and logistics services.”
Eng. Hessa Al Malek, Advisor to the Minister for Maritime Transport Affairs, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, said: “As a key player in the maritime sector, the UAE has an additional responsibility towards the maritime transport sector and the shipping industry in general and seafarers in particular. Being a member of the Executive Council of the International Maritime Organisation in Category B, our legal system fits our role and supports tangible initiatives and achievements. This has prompted us to launch this initiative, which is integrated with the comprehensive system of Government Excellence and the vision of the wise leadership.”
The initiative includes several achievements made by the Ministry in terms of protecting and supporting seafarers. The most prominent of these achievements is contributing to issuing the Cabinet’s resolution regarding marine wrecks and violating ships; announcing the regulations that guarantee the protection of seafarers’ rights; and signing an agreement with the International Transport Workers’ Federation to enhance cooperation in supporting seafarers. These efforts are in parallel with providing material and moral support to seafarers in the UAE; providing them with free treatment and COVID-19 vaccines, the UAE’s initiative to allow crew replacement, in which the UAE has achieved a global precedence, alleviating the suffering of seafarers. More than 214,000 seafarers confined to their ships, were assisted in the replacement process and went back to their home countries.