Source: Stella Maris
A Stella Maris chaplain is supporting crew onboard ships berthed at Felixstowe port amid the ongoing dockworkers strike.
Julian Wong had gone on board the container vessel George Washington Bridge which arrived in Felixstowe on August 19 before the start of the strike, to meet the crew and left them his contact details in case they needed to get in touch.
The ship was scheduled to leave the port on August 20, but its departure was delayed, so the crew had to stay on board. On August 24, Julian visited the crew again.
"They were all fine and some said they would like to go into town as they had been on board, within the confines of the port, for a few days now," said Julian.
"I provided transport for six seafarers. Three of them stopped off at the Seafarers' Centre and later walked into town and I drove the other three into town to the post office. They needed to exchange some currency and wanted to do a bit of shopping," Julian added.
The seafarers were happy and clearly relieved to spend a few hours away from their vessel. Julian also lent them mobile WiFi (miFi) units provided by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, so they were assured of having free and dependable WiFi connection on board.
And on August 25, Julian even managed to help reunite a Filipino crew member from the ship with his brother whom he had not seen in person for seven years. The brother is an engineer who lives in Nottingham, and had travelled to Felixstowe, hoping to meet the seafarer. Julian drove the seafarer to a cafe in town to meet his brother.
"With the ongoing strike a lot of people's attention is, understandably, focused on operational and business matters. At Stella Maris we continue to focus on the seafarers who live and work on board these ships" said Julian.
"I am glad to be able to provide them some relief, which helps with their overall wellbeing. In times of uncertainty and what could be an anxious period for the crew, Stella Maris is present to provide comfort and reassurance," he said, adding that he would continue to keep in contact with the crew and was ready to support seafarers from other ships due to call at the port in the coming days.
Stella Maris, (formerly known as Apostleship of the Sea), is a registered UK charity. It relies on voluntary donations, grants and legacies to continue its work.
90% of world trade is transported by ship. However, the life of a seafarer can be dangerous and lonely. They may spend up to a year at a time away from home, separated from their family and loved ones, often working in harsh conditions. Stella Maris chaplains and ship visitors provide seafarers and fishers with pastoral and practical support, information and a listening ear.
Stella Maris - www.stellamaris.org.uk