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'You are in our prayers'


Martin Foley, AoS GB national director, explains how you can get involved in a new scheme to support isolated seafarers at sea. 

One of the hardest things seafarers face when they go to sea is having to cope with long periods of isolation and loneliness. 

Spending months at sea on a ship with few colleagues to talk to, and being in the middle of the ocean, hundreds or thousands of miles from land, can be a very isolating and stressful experience. Most of us get to see our family and close friends regularly.

But for seafarers, with nine-month contracts common on many ships, this isn’t the case. They accept this sacrifice stoically, as going to sea is often the only way to earn enough money to support their families, who are often in poorer parts of the world, such as the Philippines, India, or Ukraine. 

One of the hardest things seafarers at sea face is isolation and loneliness.

Few ships have internet access, despite ongoing improvements, and using a satellite phone is very expensive. That’s why when AoS port chaplains go on board a ship they always carry a supply of mobile phone Sim cards and portable mi fi units to provide free access to the internet on board. 

And nowadays ships go to sea with a very small crew. For example, the largest British-registered ship, the CMA GCM Kerguelen, which can carry 17,000 containers and is the length of four football pitches, only has 26 crew members. 

Rev Roger Stone (pictured below), AoS port chaplain in Southampton, said many seafarers talk to him about feeling lonely on long voyages. “Seafarers work closely with the same people for a long time, eat in the same place, sit opposite the same person every meal time.” 

A small crew has serious implications for seafarers, he explained. “The smaller the crew, the less variety seafarers have in their workplace. All it takes is for one awkward or difficult character and the atmosphere changes for the worse.” 

And the fact that a crew is usually made up of seafarers from different countries can also affect conditions on board, he added. “Sometimes there are culture clashes which can lead to isolation for seafarers. This applies as much to senior officers as it does to junior seafarers. Smaller crews mean it’s even more difficult to go ashore and ‘be normal’ if only for an hour or two.” 



This is why AoS is launching a scheme to support seafarers who are isolated and feel lonely. We would like our supporters to send Mass cards, Christmas cards, or cards with a message, such as, “You are in our prayers.” You won’t include your address, so you won’t receive a reply.

All you have to do is send the card to us at our office in London or Glasgow and, through our port chaplains, we will arrange for the card to be sent to a particular seafarer. We believe such a simple gesture can go a towards making seafarers feel they are not forgotten and, just as importantly, give them encouragement in doing one of the most difficult and important jobs in the world.

We have so much to thank seafarers for. A simple card can be a source of great strength and consolation to them.

 
PS. The work of AoS is only possible thanks to the generous support and prayer of many people. Do continue to remember our work in your prayers. Thank you too if you are able to make a donation.
 
PPS. Send your card to Apostleship of the Sea, in London or Glasgow in the freepost envelope enclosed.