Following on from its Flying Angel campaign, maritime charity The Mission to Seafarers has launched a new fundraising campaign to sustain the crew welfare support currently being provided around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The Mission will unveil a rolling programme of initiatives which will have significant benefits for the welfare of the entire industry from welfare training for seafarers and frontline staff to new family support network offerings, reassurance and practical help. The programme has already received a generous donation from MSC to start the Sustaining Crew Welfare Campaign which will ensure the Mission is providing the best care possible, encouraging innovation in adapting and maintaining services to meet seafarers’ needs, and providing mental wellbeing support.
Following the success of the Flying Angel Campaign, which provided immediate welfare relief where it was most needed, The Mission to Seafarers is now focusing on a sustainability programme to ensure the support continues for seafarers. In response to a possible mental health crisis, the lack of crew changes and the families impacted by extended or cancelled contracts, the Mission will be focusing initially on three main strands to offer support: Justice & Welfare, Innovation & Regional Support and Family Support.
The Mission is often the first point of contact for seafarers in difficulty. Issues can include abandonment, the aftermath of a pirate attack, human rights abuses or issues between crews such as bullying and harassment. Seafarers’ families often contact the Mission following a bereavement or where a loved one has been lost at sea. Where possible, Mission teams co-ordinate the work with recognised organisations, such as Port State Control to enable chaplains to focus on the mental health and wellbeing side effects of the issue and to provide practical support.
This fund will help The Mission enhance the training of its frontline teams to cope with the new demands they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mission to Seafarers operates in nine regions, each one differently impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. This campaign will enable local and regional teams to adapt their support, depending on what local seafarers need most, according to current and emerging requirements. In locations where chaplains and ship visitors have been able to visit vessels, the demand for SIM cards has soared, with Hong Kong reporting sales of 25,000 units in three months. Adaptation of seafarer centres could allow crews 24/7 access to specific areas.
Maintaining the Family Support Network in the Philippines is essential and the Mission plans to establish a new service in India. This offering is vital to support families emotionally and practically. The Family Support Network in the Philippines was established in 2017 and, during the pandemic, the team in Manila provide transport for returning seafarers and food to families with no income. They have also co-ordinated the provision of life-sustaining medication to seafarers overseas living with HIV. Across the network, teams continue to support seafarers and their families who have financial, emotional, health or relationship concerns.
Based on the success in the Philippines, the Mission plans to build a new Family Support Network in India. During the pandemic, our Chaplain and the Tuticorin team has provided vital food to over 1,000 seafarers’ families who have been unable to work due to the issues in crew changes. The Mission sees this as an important development for the charity and the seafarers.
“For us at MSC, our people are our number one priority. As an essential conduit for global trade, container shipping relies on the seafarers who keep global trade moving even under extremely difficult operating conditions. We are proud to support initiatives such as the new Crew Welfare Programme by The Mission to Seafarers to alleviate the hardship on these heroes of the transportation world and their families, who are absolutely essential to the trade flow which our society all relies upon,” said Bud Darr, Executive Vice President, Maritime Policy and Government Affairs, MSC Group.
The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers, added, “During the pandemic, seafarers’ health has become even more fragile, with some working in excess of a year without a break. With limited crew changes, and in some countries no sign of the pandemic easing, our help is vital to those on the front line of international trade. Our Flying Angel Campaign was crucial to providing rapid relief and support to seafarers facing the most challenging circumstances. Now we need to be able to sustain this network of welfare support. We are calling on the industry to recognise that this crisis has not abated, and we need to unite to support our international key workers. Without the generosity of donations, our work is not possible. We give our sincere thanks to MSC for providing the first donation of our new campaign and look forward to being able to continue our support for seafarers.”