Supporting welfare of seafarers

WelCom June/July 2022 Sea Sunday: Day of Prayer for Seafarers, July 10, 2022 Michael Fitzsimons Peter, a Ship Welfare Officer at Nelson, recently spent many hours sitting quietly with a…

WelCom June/July 2022

Sea Sunday: Day of Prayer for Seafarers, July 10, 2022

Michael Fitzsimons

Supporting welfare of seafarers Archdiocese of Wellington
New crew waiting to join their vessel, Konrad Schultz. The seafarers came into the Napier centre to use the Wi-Fi and were also taken on a tour of the city in the centre van. Photo: Supplied

Peter, a Ship Welfare Officer at Nelson, recently spent many hours sitting quietly with a Filipino captain who had just lost his family to Omicron and was even more distraught because he could not go home to bury them and grieve their passing with family. Such is the effect Covid-19 has on a seafarer, which is hard for us to fully understand. All we can do is picture what it must be like for the captain. 

‘Such are the experiences of the new Ships Welfare Officers who are replacing volunteers who used to go on ships,’ says Jeff Drane sm, National Director of Stella Maris, which provides pastoral care and support for seafarers. 

‘Recently there have been major changes in how support services are funded and organised,’ says Jeff.

‘Now the Government, through Maritime NZ, pays the NZ Seafarers Welfare Board to provide seafarers with support services. Stella Maris is a member of the Board, along with the Anglican Mission to Seafarers and the International Seafarers Society, which consists of all the other church groups in New Zealand.’ 

‘We have always worked ecumenically but now with Government funding we collectively allocate the $1.2 million annually to our ports based on ship numbers and the volume of trade that passes through it.’ 

While Covid restrictions and border controls are in place, Ship Welfare Officers in Wellington, Napier, New Plymouth, Nelson and Picton provide services to seafarers by shopping for supplies, souvenirs or consumer items for seafarers and their families at home. For ships without Wi-Fi, they provide free routers so seafarers can communicate with family at home or relax with some entertainment. 

‘Over this time, contact is restricted so Ship Welfare Officers can only speak to seafarers at the top of gangways when delivering services. They can, however, show a friendly Kiwi face and can also try and ascertain if seafarers have any physical, emotional, mental or spiritual needs they can help with.’ 

Border restrictions are set to change at the end of July, says Jeff, and cruise ships will start slowly returning in October.

‘When border restrictions end, Ship Welfare Officers will be able to have more contact with seafarers, but with ports getting busier volunteers will still be needed to assist ship visitors in their work and to help with hosting at re-opened Seafarers Centres in all ports.’

July 10 is Sea Sunday in the Church’s liturgical calendar when we are encouraged to pray for seafarers and fishers and give thanks for their vital role in our lives. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Jeff Drane (jeffdrane@aos.org.nz or 027 492 0250). 

Donations can also be made to: Apostleship of the Sea Account Number 06 0582 0083650 00. To receive a receipt, please email roseceleste@aos.org.nz