Ecumenical charity Liverpool Seafarers Centre (LSC) is giving emotional support to scores of ship crew members struggling with the impact of the conflict in Ukraine.
Seafarers from Ukraine who have been witnessing the war raging in their homeland from far away are telling the charity they are increasingly anxious about the safety of their loved ones.
They are also facing growing difficulties getting in contact with people back home and uncertainty about how, when and if they can return to their country.
As well as offering emotional support and a listening ear, LSC is supplying them with free SIM cards to help them as they look to get in contact with family and friends.
Meanwhile, international concern continues to grow over the welfare of thousands of seafarers, both at sea and ashore, as the war continues to escalate.
Many fear they will be unable to return to their homes. They also face growing practical difficulties, in terms of accessing money and travel restrictions, impacting on their ability to join vessels.
LSC chief executive John Wilson says the charity has been in contact with seafarers from both Ukraine and Russia, in some cases members of the same ship’s crew, to offer its support.
He says the seafarers he has spoken to on vessels docked in Liverpool are shocked and heartbroken by what is happening and increasingly concerned for their families.
John said: “There is a feeling of helplessness, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of worry. We have reached out to seafarers docked here and stressed that we are here to listen if people want to talk about anything and that we will give what support we can in what is a terrible situation for them.
“We’re visiting vessels and hearing heart-breaking stories, including people whose family members are fleeing Ukraine and who had lost contact with them.
“They didn’t know where they were or when they would be able to see them again. It is so distressing.
“Another crew member from the Ukraine, whose contract is coming to an end simply told me, ‘I haven’t got a home to go to any more’.”
According to figures from last year, 198,123 (10.5%) of seafarers are Russian, while Ukraine accounts for 76,442 (4%).
John says that on ships docked in Liverpool where crew members are from Ukraine and Russia there is no sign of any conflict between them. He said: “I spoke to a Russian seafarer yesterday and he told me, ‘We are all family’.”
Russian seafarers are also facing difficulties in accessing pay, as sanctions against the country kick in. They also face uncertainty over travel, with airports closed and international flights to Russia cancelled.
John said another worry was the possibility of Russian ships increasingly being denied access to ports, which would have a major impact on the welfare of crew members onboard.
The war is impacting crew changes, according to reports. With movement out of Ukraine impossible, and growing problems for Russian crews, ship managers are said to have started to ask staff at sea to extend their contracts to fill the gaps.
John added: “As an ecumenical charity, we echo the thoughts of religious leaders such as the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope and we’d urge people to remember Ukraine and the people affected by these terrible events in their prayers and in their thoughts.”
- 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.