Ecumenical charity Liverpool Seafarers Centre has appealed for prayers and Christmas gifts for seafarers, fearing they will be hit hardest in the run-up to Christmas.
Charity chief executive John Wilson says that without seafarers, many of the gifts we give to loved ones at Christmas time would not be available to us.
He has appealed for a show of support and love for those who bring supplies to our shores at a time when hundreds of thousands are cut off from their loved ones back at home.
Mr Wilson appealed for prayers and donations of toiletries, confectionary, fresh fruit, CDs and recently released DVDs to be taken onto ships to benefit those on board.
The centre is aiming to put together 500 individual gifts this Christmas, an increase on the usual 300 it gives to seafarers.
Hundreds of thousands of seafarers are stuck at sea working long beyond their contracts due to the pandemic with shore leave restrictions brought, a situation compounded by the second UK national lockdown.
The Crosby charity fears the mental impact on seafarers who have been separated from their families unable to return home, which it believes will hit even more severely at Christmas time.
International Maritime Organization figures estimate that as many as 400,000 seafarers each month are currently stranded at sea waiting for repatriation with a further 400,000 ashore waiting to relieve them, often waiting with little or no pay.
The IMO reports some seafarers have now been at sea for 17 months without a break, well beyond the maximum 11-month limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).
Mr Wilson has called on communities to offer their support to seafarers, whether through remembering them in their prayers or donating Christmas gifts.
LSC has been liaising with authorities on the issue of repatriation and lobbying for measures to afford greater rights to those working beyond their contracts. Mr Wilson has also voiced fears for those at home unable to travel to begin their employment contracts, leaving them unable to provide for their families.
With the situation continuing, he believes prayers and gifts for seafarers at such a difficult time would go some way to showing support. Many have expressed feelings of loneliness and isolation through dealing with the monotony and endless routine of life on board their ships.
Mr Wilson said: “Christmas will be different for all of us this year, but for the 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea, they will have to cope with being separated from their families for much of the year. We already know the effects the pandemic is having on seafarers mentally, with many describing feeling isolated and forgotten. We also need to consider that, for people of faith, Christmas may come without the possibility of being able to attend places of worship.
“Seafarers have brought vital supplies to our shores throughout the pandemic, continuing to work while many operations shut down. Without them, many of the Christmas gifts we buy and give to loved ones would just not be available to us. It is vital that we now show them the same support they have shown us.”
The BBC reported that the ITF survey showed many seafarers were worried about fatigue and risks to safety. When asked to rate from zero to 10 the possibility of an “accident that could harm human life, property or the marine environment due to tiredness or fatigue”, 71% chose five or higher, while 15% rated the possibility at 10.
Shockingly, 8% said they weren’t being paid and 30% said they had unmet medical needs.
Mr Wilson added: “When we appealed for donations for seafarers at the beginning of the pandemic the people of Liverpool and its surrounding areas proved just how supportive they are. We hope many more will follow their lead in remembering seafarers in their prayers this Christmas and, if possible, offering a donation to ensure they have a memorable Christmas.”
Seafarer mental health
* There are more than 1.2m seafarers at sea, according to UK Chamber of Shipping<https://ukchamberofshipping.com/latest/uk-chamber-shipping-writes-uk-pm-crew-changes/>,
* Most seafarers work a typical contract length of nine months, but many have now been at sea for up to 15 months due to the pandemic, working on average 10-12 hours a day.
* Charitable organisation Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) says seafarers face isolation, sleep disruption, exhaustion. A recent survey revealed that 1/5 seafarers had thought of self-harm.
* HRAS reported an ‘unprecedented’ flow of pleas about non-payment of wages, contracts being renewed without consent, and crews being left in foreign ports without money or flights home. The organisation and LSC have each formally called on governments to recognise seafarers as key workers