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Supporting seafarers amid Coronavirus
01st April 2020
Stella Maris chaplains continue to provide support to seafarers, fishers and their families during the Covid-19 crisis, working in close partnership with Stella Maris colleagues around the world, the maritime industry, trades unions and others.
This includes undertaking port visits in order to provide welfare packages and other support to seafarers and fishers, with the permission of port authorities and in full compliance with Government directives. We also continue to support seafarers, fishers and their families via telephone social media.
Please continue to pray for seafarers, fishers, their families and the mission of Stella Maris.
Here are some of the many different ways in which our chaplains and ship visitors in Great Britain continue to support seafarers and fishermen. (To see how our colleagues around the world are supporting seafarers and fishers during Covid-19 go here.)
Our Immingham port chaplain Bryony Watson recently delivered some welfare packages to seafarers in port. This is one of the crew members from Arklow Day who was very grateful to receive a package. He has been onboard for 5 months and was due to be going home next month but will probably have his contract extended.
Seafarers on Navios Indigo recently contacted our East Anglia port chaplain Julian Wong when they arrived at Felixstowe Port. They were desperate for sim cards as they needed to get in touch with their loved ones back home. After getting the green light to visit their ship, Julian delivered the sim cards to the gangway along with care packages containing items such as chocolates, biscuits, religious resources and Stella Maris resources. All these were received with great delight and thanks. Many thanks also to everyone who contributed the items to make up the care packages.
Over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd May, our Medway & Dover port chaplain John Fogarty took 17 SIM cards to the crew of MV Wuhu in Norfleet port. The men needed some SIM cards as they had been at sea for 40 days and were desperate to contact their families as soon as they arrived in port. Needless to say they were absolutely delighted to receive the cards. These were delivered to the crew on the ship using a bucket and rope, observing all social distancing measures and the necessary precautions.
Tulips in Tilbury. Some weeks ago a Dutch ship captain and friend of Wojciech Holub's, our Tilbury port chaplain, brought him some tulip bulbs which Wojciech planted at the seafarers centre. Here's what they look like now - absolutely gorgeous!
The seafarers centre remains shut at the moment so Wojciech has dedicated the flowers to Our Lady and to the amazing staff who work at the centre.
Jun Li Barnett, one of our Tees ship visitors, has recorded a message of support for all Chinese seafarers. You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/…/jun-li-barnett-message-to-seafarers.
The English translation is as follows:
“Hello to all Chinese Seafarers.
We are ship visitor volunteers with Stella Maris and we want you all to know we are thinking of you all as you sail around the world delivering cargoes to keep all the countries supplied. We want to say a big thank you and to say how very grateful we are for all you do.
We hope that you and your families are all well and we wish you safe journeys and if any of you require help or advice please contact us through our web site.
Thank you all once again.”
In early April, our East Anglia port chaplain Julian Wong was contacted by a seafarer at Ipswich port as the ship's crew needed sim cards. Julian made sure to check with the relevant parties and authorities that distributing the cards to seafarers at the port was not a problem and was given the greenlight so supplied the men with the sim cards and also handed over a welfare package plus six chocolate bars. All social distancing and safety measures were followed.
Steve Willows, our Immingham port chaplain has been on BBC Humberside's Pause for Thought this month (April 2020) where he reflects on why we should all take a moment to think about, say thank you and pray for seafarers who are without a doubt keyworkers and play a vital role in ensuring we receive supply of food, fuel and medical products during the coronavirus. You can listen to his reflection here.
Stella Maris Tees ship visitor Hugh Ward recently received a call from a seafarer on board a ship requesting six phone top up cards. The seafarer gave the name of the vessel as Brahms and said that their ship was on the anchorage. Hugh did not know this vessel, so made a few checks and discovered that the ship was not in the Tees area but in fact in anchorage off the Thames in London.
Hugh received several more messages from the crew pleading for him to send the top ups so that they could contact their families as they could not go ashore, with a further request for a total of 13 top ups.
After consulting with our Tees Port Chaplain Deacon Peter Barrigan, it was decided that the best course of action was for Hugh to buy the tops ups himself and send the crew the top up codes.
Eric, the seafarer who made the initial call, later informed Hugh that he is the cousin of another seafarer Ervin, who previously met Hugh and his wife Mary in the Philippines. So this was how the connection was made. Eric is also a good friend of yet another seafarer Ronde – father of triplets - who Hugh and Mary supported last year. ( You can watch the video about that on our You Tube channel via this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5QpdYfwDL0 )
Deacon Peter says, “The crew were off the Thames and had no way of contacting their family. None of the guys had any data left on their phones and no chance of getting any. Because of the friendship and support that Hugh and Mary had given to the other seafarers, Eric was able to get our contact details from his cousin in the Philippines. So the trail was Thames – Philippines – Tees.”
A small world indeed.
On Easter Monday, our East Anglia port chaplain Julian Wong was contacted by a seafarer at Ipswich port as the ship's crew needed sim cards. Julian made sure to check with the relevant parties and authorities that distributing the cards to seafarers at the port was not a problem and was given the greenlight so supplied the men with the sim cards and also handed over a welfare package plus six chocolate bars. All social distancing and safety measures were followed.
Our chaplain for Southampton and South Coast Ports Charles Stuart received the necessary permission to deliver care packages to a few ships in Southampton on Easter Saturday. He also spoke to some crew members from a ship and is happy to report that they are being well looked after and even had a crew change which means the some of the seafarers on board were able to return home and hopefully be able to see their families soon. Here's a video that Charles shares with us.
Our Tilbury port chaplain Wojciech Holub has been connecting with seafarers via social media and emails during this time when we are all asked to observe social distancing and to stay home. So despite no ship visits he is able to still reach out to seafarers to let them know they're not forgotten. He shared this with seafarers during this week leading up to Easter.
Julian Wong, Stella Maris East Anglia Port Chaplain gives us an update about the support he's providing seafarers in the last couple of weeks.
The Invisible Heroes Who Help Stock Up Our Supermarkets
Seafarers are quite often invisible to the general public. During a crisis such as we have currently with Coronavirus, they play a huge part in our everyday lives. They already spend long periods, up to 9 months at a time, away from the families in normal times.
Now, at the present time some are not able to sign off and go home to their loved ones because new crews are not able to join the ships to take over. This places a huge stress on the exiting crew and their families.
As a Regional Port Chaplain for East Anglia and the Haven Ports, I have been in contact with them on social media. Over the years I had befriended them on social media never realising that one day, Stella Maris port chaplains and ship visitors would use social media in a big way to maintain contact with seafarers, supporting them, listening to their stories and offering words of comfort and support, boosting their morale and letting them know that they are not forgotten and that we care.
Some of the seafarers I’ve been in contact with simply want mobile SIM cards so they can maintain their communications with their families.
“Sir good morning .. i would like to remind you about our arrival at felixtowe port at march 26. I dont know what time yet but if its ok 1 crew will go to seamans club ang will pick up this my3 Sim..” from a crew member
“hello sir things are no so fine onboard because of corona virus they cancel our crew change until end of april. vessel (name removed)”
Some worry because they are not able to send money home to their families as they normally use Western Union and at the present time, those outlets are closed.
“A crew has asked if it's possible to send money through you.” Crew from (name removed)
One seafarer was concerned and worried that his supply of medication wouldn’t last till he is able to get home.
“Sir can have favor for you can you tell the massimo franzi to buy me a medicine for my maintenance because short until may go home”
I contacted Stella Maris Genoa Port Chaplain Deacon Massimo Franzi to ask if he could help as the ship’s next port would be Genoa. I also suggested to the seafarer to ask the captain to contact the ship’s agent for help to get his medication.
These are just some of the stories I have heard so far and I am sure there are many more that are not heard. Please pray for seafarers.
During this period of isolation our Immingham port chaplain Steve Willows decided that a different way he could still help seafarers was by making some rosaries for them. He was able to get some twine and watch an easy step by step YouTube video and look at a guide on how to make a rosary and it wasn’t too difficult.
The whole process of the first rosary took a while but with some practice Steve got quicker and also made some smaller bracelet types rosaries with 1 decade on them. Steve also found that it’s a good chance to pray for the seafarers whilst making the rosaries. If you have the craft material at home this is something anyone can do for a seafarer.
Here are the links to different guides:
Here's a photo of Paul Atkinson, our Tyne port chaplain who is packing items to make up our care packages for distribution to seafarers.
Paul says the packages contain religious items such as Palm Crosses, Prayer Cards, Prayer Books, Rosaries, etc and toiletries, chocolate and sweets, our monthly Stella Maris Magazine and other small appropriate items. Paul will distribute these packages via the harbour master, port pilots and shipping agents.
"This way we can show our care and support for seafarers in a ‘different way.’ And show we are still ‘alongside’ them as they continue to sail the seas to support their families," said Paul.
Meanwhile in East Anglia our port chaplain Julian Wong is working closely with port authorities to deliver these care packages to seafarers on ships. Recently he delivered five packages to King's Lynn port and another five to Ipswich port.Thanks everyone for your kind help.
Our Immingham port chaplain Bryony Watson sent this message;
"Since we’re unable to visit ships I’ve been keeping in contact with seafarers via Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. Ryan, and the boys from MV Petunia Seaways sent me this lovely video to show how they’re keeping their spirits up despite being unable to leave the ship."
Please pray for seafarers
In these challenging times we would like to ask you to pray and pray even more for seafarers and their families.
Although unable to physically visit seafarers on board ships now, our Tilbury port chaplain Wojciech Holub keeps in contact with the many seafarers he has supported over the years. He recently spoke to a Filipino officer whose wife died suddenly, cause of death yet unknown.
Wojciech says, “It has been unbelievably tough for him because he is unable to go home for her funeral and we cannot be by his side to support and comfort him.”
Wojciech also spoke to another ship engineer who has also lost his wife. He was lucky enough to be at home in Indonesia when she died.
We know that seafarers’ are hearing about family members dying through various circumstances as well as Covid-19, yet they have to keep working to be bread-winners for their families and villages back home.
They are losing family members at home yet staying in post and bringing critical care material to the many affected by the coronavirus, medical professionals and care givers globally…..this is truly sacrificial in so many ways.
So please remember to include seafarers and their families in your prayers. Thank you.
These Filipino fishermen who were being supported by Stella Maris finally flew home last Monday (March 16) to be reunited with their families after spending the past 8 months in Scotland.
They were involved in a court case against their skipper who in January was found guilty and fined of assault and racially-aggravated harassment of the men over a period of six years. Deacon Joe O’Donnell, Senior Regional Port Chaplain for Stella Maris in Scotland waved goodbye to the men.
They are looking forward to being with their families however will have to spend one month in quarantine in their native country due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We pray they will be reunited with their families soon. You can read more of the story here.