"The world's 1.5 million merchant seafarers are responsible for transporting more than 90 per cent of the products and produce traded globally, a job that involves long periods of separation from family and friends as well as the risks posed by pirates and the weather" - Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese
2010 is The International Year of the Seafarer and today the Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese officially launched the occasion while reflecting on "the unique but often overlooked contribution merchant seafarers make to the well-being of communities and the prosperity of the global economy.
As well as paying tribute to the dedication of seafarers the minister cited the need to educate the community about the challenges they confront every day.
"The International Year of the Seafarer also gives the industry a good opportunity to step up its recruitment efforts and encourage more young people to consider a career at sea," he said.
"Without merchant seafarers global trade would collapse, leaving hundreds of millions of people without a livelihood and yet more without the necessities of life."
Minister Albanese said that as an island continent, Australia was particularly reliant on the global maritime industry.
"Virtually all our exports and imports needing to be transported by sea," he said. "In fact, we have the 5th largest shipping task in the world.
"With more than 4,000 ships - including 200 oil and chemical carriers - navigating our waters every year, many near environmental icons such as the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef, Australia has a strong interest in making sure these vessels continue to be crewed by highly trained and dedicated seafarers."
Today's official launch coincides with the Shipping Industry Awareness Day.
The International Year of the Seafarer is an initiative of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the UN agency responsible for safety, security and environmental standards within the international maritime industry. Australia is a founding and active member of the organisation.
The Minister said that since being elected the Rudd Labor Government had put maritime policy back on the national agenda, initiated a parliamentary inquiry into coastal shipping and undertaken a total re-write of the Navigation Act and moving towards a single national regulator for all commercial vessels.