Why are Seafarers’ Centres Still Needed?
Despite, or perhaps as a result of, the many advances in maritime technology in recent years, the demands made upon seafarers are very much greater than in the past. Ships are larger, but have smaller crews, often arrive and leave at unsocial hours and their time in port is frequently measured in mere hours.
Seafarers may be on contract and away from home for long periods (10 months is not unusual) and work long hours onboard at sea and in port. In many ships the crew is comprised of a number of nationalities without a common language, English being kept for basic onboard communication.
Even in the best run ships operated by reputable companies, these factors lead to isolation and loneliness. As a consequence, seafarers who are already doing a difficult and often dangerous job in a hostile environment, separated from family and friends for very long periods, become more remote from their native life. They will often feel lonely, unappreciated and become increasingly socially isolated.
Seafarers will often be required to work on the ship while it is in port with little opportunity to get ashore. Telephone calls and email facilities, if they are available to the crew at all, are expensive from the ship and often beyond the means of the seafarer – except in dire emergencies.
This means that the unconditional approach of our chaplain and volunteers when ship visiting is increasingly valued and they are treated as a friend among seafarers with a special trusted status. The Chaplain and Volunteers greeting the crew to offer ‘phone cards and the opportunity for a chat about personal matters, or offering a lift to the Seafarers’ Centre to use its facilities, brings some respite to the modern seafarer.