Read about how Britannia staff visited ships and crew in various ports, to experience first-hand the important work carried out by Apostleship of the Sea charity which helps seafarers around the globe
SOUTHAMPTON: JUSTIN OLLEY
Father John, his staff and volunteers are there to listen to the crews’ concerns when they may have no one else to talk to, and to support and help them whenever possible. Our team from London visited two car carriers, where Father John delivered Stella Maris publications, woolly hats, a portable 4G Wi-Fi router and bars of good quality chocolate that wouldn’t melt so quickly in hot working conditions. There is also a busy cruise terminal at Southampton that welcomes over two million passengers a year, and the growth in the cruise market places increasing demands on the crew. Competition for positions on board, ever higher standards, and long hours in difficult working conditions, all take their toll.
THE LOAN OF A WI-FI ROUTER ENABLED THE CREW TO DOWNLOAD MOVIES, SKYPE, UPLOAD PHOTOS AND GENERALLY CATCH-UP WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
Ships’ cooks are an important source of information, and a good barometer of morale on board. They know if there are any issues that may be affecting particular crew members, and are often visited by Father John and his staff. After an unexpected lunch of delicious hot dogs rustled up by the ship’s cook, a short walk from the port took us to the new Southampton Stella Maris Centre behind St Joseph’s Church. Here the crew can relax, away from the demands of the ship, use the free Wi-Fi and access the local network of resources. In the grounds of the facility is a recently donated and very sizable ship’s bell. The bell had once hung in St Joseph’s, but had ‘disappeared’ many years ago and by chance a Stella Maris volunteer had spotted and bought it on eBay. It was soon returned to its rightful place and provides a link between the church and the AOS’s maritime past, the vital work they do and will surely continue to do in the future.
SOUTHAMPTON BRITANNIA (LONDON OFFICE) JUSTIN OLLEY, ANASTASIA TAGKOULI, GILLIAN LAM AND MATTHEW MADIGAN VISITED 2 CAR CARRIERS
PORT CHAPLAIN FATHER JOHN LAVERS.
FELIXSTOWE: ELLA HAGELL
Pat Ezra has been Port Chaplain for two and a half years. She is a qualified engineer who went on to do a theology degree, and now works full time for AoS covering East Anglia and Harwich. Pat has also completed the Ship Welfare Visitor Course run by Merchant Navy Welfare Board (volunteers also have to do this). AoS has over 20 chaplains in the UK, plus volunteers, and together they visit 10,000 ships a year in the UK. With winter approaching Pat and her volunteer assistant will be delivering woolly hats, neck- warmers and gloves to the lower ranks. On her visits to the crew mess, the crew are sometimes reluctant to open up their hearts, but will often text later if they have a problem. We also visited the seafarers’ centre, run by volunteers from a local charity. There was an impressive bar, snacks, shop, TV, internet, pool table, outside area and chapel.
ONE THIRD OF AoS’ FUNDING IS RAISED FROM CHURCH COLLECTIONS ON SEA SUNDAY. ONLY ABOUT £15K COMES FROM CORPORATE DONORS.
Pat covers a huge area and can’t be in all places at once, so this limits the amount of ship visiting she can do. Ships spend very little time in port so there are not many opportunities for the crew to go into town, which is why the seafarers’ centres and ship visits play such an important role.
FELIXSTOWE BRITANNIA (LONDON OFFICE) ELLA HAGELL VISITED 2 CONTAINERSHIPS
PORT CHAPLAIN PAT EZRA
HONG KONG SUNG: PIU KAI & JASON HO
Father Valan has worked as a secondary school teacher and Roman Catholic priest in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, and is a familiar face to crew on ships calling at Hong Kong. He understands what seafarers need, and even brought DVDs of English football matches for the crew when we visited with him on a calm sunny day in Hong Kong Port. Father Valan has a busy schedule, often visiting 7 or 8 ships a day, 3 to 4 times a week. We visited three ships – a small containership, a handymax bulk carrier and a gas tanker. The container crew were mostly Filipino and a few Burmese. They were delighted to see Father Valan. We met the master at the bridge and spoke with the chief officer about his family, life at sea, his career and challenges. On the bulk carrier the crew consisted of Filipinos and Indians. Over lunch in the mess room, we chatted with some members of the crew, but most were young men glued to their mobile phones. The gas tanker was manned by Chinese and Indonesian crew. A young second officer was excited to learn of the Mariners’ Club and their new free ferrying service from ship to shore. The shipowners allowed the crew to access the ship’s Wi-Fi for free, so they could keep touch with their families during their rest time. Father Valan shared with us the seafarers’ experiences of physical and psychological challenges, and how interventions and blessings often prevented serious incidents. Different religious beliefs were sometimes challenging – crews from Eastern European countries prefer to see priests and deacons from the Orthodox Church whereas Filipino seafarers prefer the Catholic Church. Our day culminated back on shore where we were introduced to the upgraded facilities of the AoS offices in Jordon and at the Mariners’ Club near Kwai Chung Container Terminal.
ALL YEAR WE ARE ENGAGED IN MARITIME-RELATED WORK. BUT ON THIS WONDERFUL TRIP, WE GAINED A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING AND KNOWLEDGE OF SEAFARERS’ LIVES. SUNG PIU KAI
We are grateful to Fr. Valan for his good work, and would recommend colleagues to join similar visits – to see the real world from a different perspective. The work by the ministry is regarded as irreplaceable and they are pillars of support to so many aspects of a seaman’s life at sea.
HONG KONG BRITANNIA (HK OFFICE) SUNG PIU KAI AND JASON HO VISITED A SMALL CONTAINERSHIP, BULK CARRIER AND A GAS TANKER
PORT CHAPLAIN FATHER VALAN
TOKYO: NANAKO HIBI
Ms. Iwai is the only chaplain at AoS Tokyo. She visits an average of five ships a day almost every day, sometimes with volunteers who use their own cars, and once a month she is accompanied by a Filipino priest. The purpose of Ms. Iwai’s visits is to listen to seafarers, and she always receives a warm welcome. She asks about their families, their jobs, and next ports of call. Being away from family and friends is hard for seafarers and they enjoy chatting with an ‘outside’ person from AoS. She makes them feel appreciated and valued. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Seafarers’ Bulletin is distributed in a variety of languages, as well as AoS’s flyers – the Bible and rosary are also available if requested. Unfortunately, because of strict checks at Immigration,it is sometimes difficult to bring SIM cards or toiletries to the ships, but hand knitted caps at Christmas are warmly received. Britannia is the first P&I Club to approach AoS Tokyo. Hopefully this article will inform other P&I Clubs of the important work they do.
TOKYO BRITANNIA (TOKYO OFFICE) NANAKO HIBI, MIYAKO OUCHI, RIKA ISHII AND SEIYA OKADA VISITED 2 CONTAINERSHIPS AND A GENERAL CARGO SHIP
PORT CHAPLAIN MS. IWAI