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In ports around the country AoS chaplains are helped by teams of volunteer ship visitors, who give up their time to try and make a difference to the seafarers they meet.

Former civil servant Phil Nolan works with Anne McLaren, the port chaplain in Hull. He decided to become a ship visitor after attending a presentation in his parish about the work of AoS.

“What I find most rewarding about meeting seafarers is listening to their stories and sharing experiences. I assist them while they are in port in various ways, such as providing transport to shops or helping them to contact home,” he said.

He added that being a ship visitor has enabled him to give something back to seafarers, who work long hours and often for low pay to bring us the goods we need for our daily lives.

Although most of the seafarers arriving in Britain are from other countries and don’t always speak English, Phil said this isn’t such a big problem.

"We all have similar needs. And I believe it’s important to offer an open friendly welcome to a stranger. A smile goes a long way to overcome linguistic or cultural barriers. 

“I have also plucked up the courage to learn Russian. About 40% of the seafarers who come to Hull speak Russian as a first language. It’s useful to be able to greet and engage seafarers in their own language.”

Barbara Thomas became a ship visitor after spending 30 years teaching in Catholic schools. She tries to go down to the docks in Cardiff at least once every week, visiting mainly, tankers and general cargo vessels. But the irregularity of ships’ arrivals, especially if the weather is bad, means that is not always possible. 

Seafarers get very lonely at times and morale can be low. “They appreciate the chance to talk, but a ship visitor also has to be able to listen and help without interfering. Often they like to talk about their families.”

Arthur Annal, a volunteer ship visitor on the Medway, said he sees his role with seafarers as spreading the Christian message. “I might spend up to 20 hours per week visiting ships. I am taking the parish to the seafarers, who can’t come to the parish.”

Providing ship visitors is just one way your financial support to AoS helps makes a difference to the lives of seafarers. And it’s only through your continued generosity that we can continue to do this.