Greg Watts 5.5.17
Most of us probably never think about seafarers. Yet our lives are much more connected to the maritime industry than we might think. The chances are that our fridge, that jar of coffee, our computer or car have all arrived by sea. An estimated 90% of goods imported into the UK come by ship.
Apostleship of the Sea’s chaplains and ship visitors can be found in ports around Britain each week climbing the gangway to offer practical help and pastoral care to seafarers.
In south Wales Fr Paul Osunyikanmi covers Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock, while Fr Noel Mullins covers Cardiff, Port Talbot and Newport.
Port chaplains and their teams of ship visitors will do anything from arranging transport to take seafarers to local shops or church to providing mobile phone top-up cards or warm clothing in the winter.
And if a seafarer is experiencing personal problems, perhaps because of relationship difficulties back home or because of an issue over pay or working conditions, it’s often to the AoS port chaplain or ship visitor that they will turn for help.
It’s not uncommon nowadays for contracts on ships to be for several months. This means seafarers can miss significant family events, such as the birth of their child.
Seafarers 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.
Few ships have internet access 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 top-up and SIM cards
Father Colum Kelly, AoS port chaplain to Immingham, summed up what a port chaplain’s role is. “We make a lot of small gestures. And small gestures should never be underestimated.’