The Continuing Need for the Society’s Work
The Seafarers’ Centre – a welcome home away from home
“There is no doubt that improved efficiency in cargo handling equipment and competition between ports to attract vessel operators to use their facilities has led to marked changes in the shipping industry. With the increase in technology and the pressure of competition between ports improving the speed of unloading and loading, ship turnaround times are being dramatically reduced.
Although there is enormous economic benefit to the end consumer in bringing goods and produce to market more efficiently, for the merchant seafarer crewing the vessels that transport these cargoes, the opportunity for a change of routine and the potential for rest and shore-side leisure is diminished every time this efficiency increases. There is no doubt that this has impacted heavily upon seafarers’ lives in port and increases the relevance of the Society’s work to serve today’s and tomorrow’s seafarer whenever the need arises.
Vessel turnarounds are now counted in hours, rather than days, and the effect of these fast port turnarounds is to increase the workload upon the seafarer, not improve their chance to spend personal time away from the ship. The obligation upon port operators to adhere to the ISPS code, which is intended to improve security at ports worldwide, leads to additional responsibility upon the seafarer whilst in port and puts even greater restrictions on the chance for a few hours of continuous shore leave, to relax and enjoy those things that other people take for granted.
Vessels continue to increase in size and the number of people needed to crew them is becoming less as shipboard technology becomes more sophisticated … The wide mix of nationalities now crewing the majority of ocean going ships can result in them finding themselves socially isolated, even among their work colleagues, as their native tongue is often not the common language of communication onboard, and other than work instructions passed in a common tongue, there may be little informal conversation or social interaction among crew members whilst onboard.
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.
All this means that the unconditional approach of our [ship visitors] is increasingly valued and they are treated as a friend among seafarers with a special trusted status.
Our service continues to follow a strong Christian tradition to provide support and respond to all the seafarer’s welfare needs. Most of all remaining concerned with their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and the Society’s work can provide the antidote to the many problems of modern-day seafaring.
The need for what we do is more vital now than it ever was.”