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Support for stranded seafarers

Pre COVID-19 seafarer life at sea was already tough with 60% of the 1.5 million Seafarers worldwide suffering from depression and the highest industrial suicide rate in the world. Some seafarers at times have to endure war zones, piracy, slave labour and abandonment. The average seafarer contract at sea can last up to 9 months away from home. Since the 1980’s the Anglican led Mission to Seafarers Nelson has supported tens of thousands of seafarers who at various times were absent from family events like childbirth, graduations, birthdays, Christmas, weddings, and funerals. Mission to Seafarers Nelson is solely funded by the generosity of donations and grant applications.

Since Covid-19, thousands of seafarers visiting NZ are currently stranded on their ships due to the 28-day quarantine restrictions. Only a small percentage of these ships have WIFI access for crew to contact home. Pre Covid-19, crew took shore leave, accessed counselling/advocacy support from seafarer chaplaincies and utilised shore-based Wi-Fi or purchased data to contact home. Under COVID-19 restrictions seafarers are now unable to access services and contact home, and to compound matters, their home countries are being devastated by the global pandemic.

This has now development into a humanitarian crisis, currently an estimated 300,000 seafarers are stranded at sea or in ports worldwide due to international boarder closures. Many seafarers are compelled to work beyond their already lengthy 9-month contracts. The International Transport Federation has called for all Seafarers to strike, to force crew changes, allow shore-leave and to allow the availability of support services. If a strike went ahead, then 99% of NZ’s trade worth $120 billion that transits via the sea will come to a grinding halt, effectively crippling our economy.

The Ministry of Transport have now deemed Seafarer Chaplaincy’s an essential service where initially these services had lockdown restrictions. The Ministry has also allocated some funds to address the issues facing seafarers nationwide. Port Nelson, a supporter of Mission to Seafarers Nelson since the early days have now provided seafarers free WIFI access.

Mission to Seafarers Chaplain Peter Akuhata is aiming to initiate a “Port Welfare Committee” in compliance with an international maritime agreement which NZ is a signatory to. This Committee will oversee the wellbeing of the 3000 plus seafarers who visit Nelson annually. The Members of this committee will have representatives from Nelson’s MP’s office, Maritime NZ’s Nelson office, International Transport Federation Nelson office, the Nelson city Council, Port Nelson, the Nelson Harbour Master, Mission to Seafarers Nelson, NZ Merchant Navy Association, Nelson based shipping agents and Pegasus Shipping.
Source: Seafarers Mission

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