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‘Home Sick’ by San Ko Oo wins Life at Sea 2022 photography competition

29 September 2022
For immediate release

On this, World Maritime Day, we’re delighted to announce the winners of the Life at Sea 2022 photography competition, the latest in the ITF Seafarers’ Trust project to capture the experiences of seafarers today and highlight their vital, often unnoticed, role in the global economy.

The photography project, which began in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, now boasts a collection of some 5,000 digital images showing seafarers proudly at work on deck, in the engine room and galley; up ropes, wielding hoses and paint brushes, having solitary moments missing family and enjoying the camaraderie on board. Earlier this month the Trust had the pleasure of presenting the shortlisted photos to the International Congress of Maritime Museums at their 50th anniversary congress in Halifax, Canada. The intention is to create collections and resources for museums around the world and share the perspective of contemporary seafarers with the general public.

This year the first prize of £1,000 goes to San Ko Oo for his photo ‘Home Sick’. The judges were moved by this striking image of a young seafarer looking at his mobile phone, missing home. The combination of tough tattoos and vulnerability reflect the ambiguity of seafaring – on the one hand a hard, macho profession and on the other hand an environment that can be very lonely and isolated.

‘I was entranced by the quality and variety of images submitted by seafarers for this year’s competition: covering happiness, loneliness, the hard graft of the job, the wildness of the ocean and the elements, they were a truly mesmerising picture of life spent working at sea, out of sight of much of the world that depends on these men and women.’ said Rose George, one of this year’s judges.

A total contrast, the second prize was awarded to Harold Papa Melendez for his photo ‘Cheerful Buddies’, an image of infectious laughter and sheer joy. ‘Being at port is the busiest time for a seafarer. Aside from keeping watch, there is the supply of provision, stores, bunkering, inspections and no shore leave. But whatever the circumstances are nothing can dampen the mood of a jolly person.’ Commented Mr Melendez in his caption for the photo. 

The third prize was awarded to Sudhir Shukla for his evocative image ‘The Moon’ depicting a seafarer on deck at night drinking in the moonlit sky with the thought ‘No matter where you are in the world, the moon is never bigger that your thumb’. The judges, especially those with seagoing experience, related to the elemental nature of the photograph and the sense of being alone on the wide ocean with dramatic clouds and moon above.

In addition, judges recognised three further photographs as highly commended. Christine Melliza’s ‘This Girl is On Fire’; Aldrin Manuel Ulep’s ‘A Gaze Beyond Horizon’; and Buen Ray Orteguia’s ‘Scrub, Scrub, Scrub!’.

‘I’m hugely impressed by the quality of the submissions this year – they just get better and better” said Katie Higginbottom, Head of ITF Seafarers’ Trust ‘Creating the shortlist of thirty for the judges was a real challenge. Every time we dive into the archive, we find new favourites. We are really looking forward to developing new exhibitions and innovative ways to highlight the creativity of seafarers and share their experiences.’

Guy Platten, General Secretary of ICS said ‘It was an honour to be asked to be a judge of the Trust’s photography competition. The calibre of the photography was extraordinarily high and really spoke to me as a former seafarer. All the winning images have great qualities and capture a wide range of emotions - ‘Cheerful Buddies’ brings a smile just by looking at it.’

Belal Ahmed, Chairman of IMEC said ‘I was delighted to be asked to be a judge of the seafarers’ photography competition – that was before I realised how hard it would be. The range and expressiveness of the photographs was really impressive. As an ex-seafarer I could relate to almost all photographs shortlisted for the award. We had quite extensive discussions before finally reaching a consensus on the winners.  This is a really great initiative designed to showcase the talent of our seafarers and give witness to their great work keeping global trade afloat.’

This year’s judges were Rose George, author of the acclaimed book Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, And Food on Your Plate (also published under the title Deep Sea & Foreign Going), Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Ahmed Belal, MD of Western Shipping, Singapore and Chairman of the International Maritime Employers’ Council and Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

Life at Sea 2022 is the third seafarers’ photography competition organised by the ITF Seafarers Trust following on from Still at Sea (2020) and Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind (2021). It is the intention to make it an annual event and living archive of seafarers’ conditions, experiences and emotions. The winning photographs can be found here:




For further information please contact:

Mary Bollan

Office and Communications Manager

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Note to editors

The ITF Seafarers Trust is a UK charity established in 1981, which funds programmes that advance the wellbeing of maritime workers, seafarers and their families. We are funded by the Trust’s own capital funds, and by the investment income of the Welfare Fund at the International Transport Workers Federation, a global federation of transport workers’ unions representing nearly 20 million members.

About the judges:

Rose George is the author of four books about refugees, sanitation, and blood. She also writes journalism for the Guardian, New Statesman, Spectator and many other publications. She is currently working on her fifth book, on fishing and fishes. She has terrible sea legs, except on container ships. 

Guy Platten was appointed Secretary General of ICS in August 2018. He has extensive experience in the maritime industry both at sea and ashore and is a qualified Master Mariner. He has held a number of senior positions including Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, Chief Executive of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (a ferry and port owning company providing lifeline ferry services to communities in Scotland) and Director of Marine Operations for the Northern Lighthouse Board which is responsible for lighthouses, buoys, beacons and Aids to Navigation throughout Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Capt. Belal Ahmed started his career at sea in 1978. In 2001 he became Marine Superintendent with Western Shipping, Singapore, a newly formed company. He was involved in setting up the company from starting level to a well-managed respected tanker management company. During 2004 / 2005 period, a crew management office was established in Manila  followed by a training centre. In 2010 he was appointed as General Manager and Managing Director of the company. Now the Chairman of IMEC, Capt. Belal has been closely involved with the organisation for over a decade and has played significant roles in the seafarers employment, social benefits and training initiatives.

Jacqueline Smith joined the ITF in October 2014 as the Maritime Coordinator.  Prior to joining the ITF Jacqueline had the honour of leading the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union (NSU) and its 11,000 members for almost 8 years. Since joining the ITF Jacqueline has continued to strive to ensure that seafarers internationally are covered by collective agreements and that they are upheld and enforced, as well as being totally committed to not losing national cabotage so that national seafarers can continue to operate in their own waters.  In March 2021 Jacqueline became a member of the World Maritime University (WMU) Executive Board.

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