Championing for Seafarers and helping them get vaccinated
Seafarers, who should be called "invisible essential workers", need our help more than ever. Maritime transport depends on the 2 million seafarers who operate the world’s merchant ships, which carry about 90% of global trade by volume, including most of the world’s food, energy, and medical supplies.
Due to COVID-related travel restrictions, hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been stuck at sea. Often still unable to disembark, the maximum sea time stipulated in international conventions, is being ignored, with some seafarers working unrelieved for up to 18 months.
Because of the lack of crew rotation, many seafarers are exhausted and worried about their loved ones who they can’t contact while at sea. When in port, customs agents don’t allow seafarers to leave their ships, which for many have become "floating prisons." You may listen to this report from the well-regarded Marketplace radio program about the situation that seafarers face during this pandemic.
Other seafarers are literally stranded in NYC with no permanent home to go to and no assignment because of the disruptions. The costs of hotels are a financial hardship to many seafarers who are forced to wait ashore for their next shipping job.
Seafarers International House addresses the needs of both sets of seafarers, the ones stuck at sea and the ones stranded. Our port chaplains are able to visit ships in ports along the Eastern Seaboard and bring them magazines, books, and internet connectivity that breaks the painful separation from their families. Port chaplains also bring necessary provisions that the seafarers ask them to pick up.
Seafarers stranded in Manhattan have a subsidized place to stay at the Seafarers International House ”relocated” - now at a mid-town hotel. Our staff assists them if they need counsel or social work assistance.
These days our port chaplains are assisting scores of mariners to receive vaccines, a complicated process that involves coordination with captains, ship agents, Customs and Border Control and pharmacies. They also provide very personal support to help the crews acquire needed essentials including medication. Time and time again we hear their exclamations of joy and gratitude, such as a seafarer who-teary-eyed exclaimed after being vaccinated, “Thanks be to God for this. It means I can re-enter the world.”
In addition, a hot-line “chat with a chaplain” has also been established for seafarers regardless of where they are in the world.
Your support will provide great relief to the invisible essential workers that travel the world seas many months on end, to provide us the essential goods we often take for granted during this pandemic.
Please give as generously as you can. You may also find out how you can help seafarers this Christmas or learn more.