Liverpool Seafarers Centre has called on churchgoers of all denominations to remember seafarers in their prayers this Sea Sunday.
In its appeal, the ecumenical charity said it was vital, now more than ever, to support those working on ships, with many left stranded on board during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many seafarers are facing extended contracts, a lack of shore leave and the inability to speak to their loved ones due to poor quality, non-existent or expensive wifi and internet.
LSC, which has centres in Crosby and Eastham, reported in May the urgent plight of seafarers from India and the Philippines who felt ‘like prisoners’ aboard ship as they are unable to return home as a result of flight bans. It is these seafarers, and all others serving on vessels, as well as their families, that Sea Sunday aims to celebrate.
The shipping industry warned in June that travel restrictions had left up to 400,000 crew stranded either at sea or at home. One German-owned tanker refused to sail unless replacement crew could be brought in amid concerns of fatigue compromising safety, and the International Chamber of Shipping said the situation could cause serious interruption to global trade if others followed.
This year, the day of remembrance, prayer and celebration takes place on Sunday 12 July.
John Wilson, LSC chief executive, said it was especially important to remember the vital roles of seafarers during such challenging times. Now, more than ever, seafarers are working hard to deliver protective equipment and medication to medical staff, as well as the food and other essential supplies needed to keep supermarket shelves stocked.
He said: “Seafarers are often invisible and forgotten at this particularly challenging time, yet they play a vital part in keeping our country running by transporting supplies to our shores on a daily basis. During normal times, the men and women aboard these ships often work long hours in dangerous conditions to carry out their roles. In the current situation, many of these are working with limited shore leave due to quarantine restrictions, leaving them with extended period on board their vessels. Others are stuck at home unable to work and earn money for their families because crew changes are infrequent during lockdown.”
Then there are others who have completed their duties but are struggling to get home, particularly those employed on cruise ships. Mr Wilson has continued to visit ships during the pandemic to deliver donations from the public, including toiletries, confectionary, puzzles and games, fresh fruit, recently released CDs and DVDs, all of which are still very much in demand.
While these gifts have kept up the spirits of those the centre has helped, Mr Wilson said he feared for their mental health during the crisis.
He said: “Seafarers are at increased risk of suffering from mental health problems anyway, through the long periods away from home, isolation and cramped living conditions they cope with. The pressure on their mental health from the COVID-19 crisis is huge and this exacerbates the risk of accident. Sadly seafarers although immensely proud of their work, feel unsupported during this pandemic.
“On Sea Sunday we urge people of all denominations to remember seafarers in their prayers and sermons.”
Liverpool Seafarers Centre is a partnership between the Catholic Apostleship of the Sea (Liverpool) and the Anglican Mersey Mission to Seafarers.
The charity provides ‘a lifeline’ to seafarers both active and retired. It offers a safe and secure place to rest and receive practical and emotional support through its bases in Liverpool Cruise Terminal, Crosby and Eastham. It garners the support of many cross denominational faiths and organisations.
On a practical level, it provides access to WIFI, money exchange and a physical base on land for crew to take relief from the vessel. It offers emotional support for ‘major life events’ such as births, marriages, deaths, bereavements and divorce. The centre also acts as a mediator communicating with ship management companies to ensure seafarers are being properly cared for.
Liverpool Seafarers Centre background
Liverpool Seafarers Centre, which won the Positive Impact Award at the Mersey Maritime Industry Awards 2020 in March, helps 50,000 seafarers each year visiting Merseyside ports. It is a partnership between Apostleship of the Sea (Liverpool) and The Mersey Mission to Seafarers. In September 2019, LSC was awarded the world’s best seafarer centre at the International Seafarer Welfare Awards (ISWAN) as nominated and voted for by mariners themselves. The charity’s work involves visiting vessels to integrate with the crew, offering a listening ear to help combat isolation and loneliness and providing places ashore for seafarers to relax away from their working environment.
* LSC is funded by donations from the churches, we well as general donations and a new port levy on shipping lines.
* LSC is headquartered at Colonsay House in Crosby and opened a new centre in Eastham on Wirral opened in 2017.
* Corporate supporters of LSC include: Essar’s Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port, Peel Ports, the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, the Mersey River Pilots, Mersey Maritime, Polaris Media Management, the Voluntary Aid Club and The Phoebe Wortley Charitable Trust.