Ecumenical charity Liverpool Seafarers Centre has welcomed a ruling in the US to improve access to shore leave for those working onboard ships.
The Crosby-based charity said it was only right that seafarers be permitted adequate time away from their vessels while in any port.
The Seafarers’ Access to Maritime Facilities Final Rule comes into force on 1 June 2020, issued by the US Coast Guard, as reported in Seatrade Maritime News.
The rule states that each owner or operator of a maritime facility regulated by the US Coast Guard must provide seafarers and representatives of seafarers’ trade unions and welfare organisations, access between vessels moored at the facility and the facility gate, promptly and at no cost to the seafarer or other individuals.
Chief executive of the seafarers centre John Wilson welcomed the ruling and hoped other countries would follow.
He said: “The majority of seafarers spend anywhere between nine and twelve months on a ship during which they work long hours. Any down-time they receive is spent in their place of work, with all the noise and vibrations that environment entails, meaning there is no escape.
“A report last year found that seafarers were at risk of developing poor mental health because of conditions like these, which means it is vital that they are given time to spend away from the ships they live and work on.
“Just because a ship is in port it does not always mean the crew can go ashore so this ruling is a vital step towards ensuring the wellbeing of crews who dock in US ports.”
The report in 2019 by Cardiff University’s Seafarers’ International Research Centre (SIRC) found that long working hours, isolation and extended periods away from home put seafarers at risk of poor mental health.
The working environment and conditions on board for some are resulting in a recognised increase in suicides and attempted suicides, while loneliness, boredom and depression were singled out as significant issues.
Liverpool Seafarers Centre assists in alleviating these issues, providing social visits to ships docked in Liverpool and all Mersey ports including the Manchester Ship Canal, going aboard to chat to the crew, to offer a warm welcome and to break the monotony of their time on board. The charity also provides internet-enabled sim cards to give seafarers the opportunity to connect with those home at a time to suit, allows them space to unwind while ashore and even arranges transport to places of interest or countryside to provide some much-needed respite away from the port environment.