The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has paid homage to the extraordinary contribution made by thousands of merchant seafarers, who bravely served on Australian, Commonwealth and Allied ships, and on merchant ships from other nations, during the First and Second World Wars.
“Merchant Navy Day is a time to reflect on the contribution made by merchant seafarers, in a country which relied exclusively on ships and seafarers to move goods around before the development of roads and rail,” Mr Doleman said.
“The contribution that seafarers made during war and in particular world war II where 1 in 8 Australian seafarers were killed on Australian and allied merchant ships.
“Only recently was their service recognised from the great campaigns, many of them now passed away or well into retirement,” he said.
Mr Doleman said merchant ships faced dangerous situations, coming under threat from enemy submarines, aircrafts and mines, often in unpredictable weather.
During the Second World War, 4,700 Allied merchant vessels were sunk and 30,000 merchant seafarers on the Allied side lost their lives.
Some 435 Australian merchant seafarers who died during their service are recorded on memorials around Australia.
Declared as a national day of observance in 2008, Merchant Navy Day is commemorated on 3 September each year to mark the sinking of the first Allied merchant vessel, the British liner Athenia in 1939.
The United Kingdom and Canada also commemorate Merchant Navy Day on 3 September.