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Mission to Seafarers bringing its important message to Saudi Arabia and beyond

The Mission to Seafarers is a global charity that provides welfare support to seafarers. In an interview with Seatrade Maritime, the Mission's Port Development Manager Paul Trathen discusses the organisation's plans for Saudi Arabia, the services it provides to seafarers, and the importance of keeping seafarers in mind especially as the world moves on from the pandemic.

Paul says that the organisation is excited to be part of the growing maritime scene in the Kingdom and to support the seafarers who come from all over the world to work in Saudi ports.

Seatrade Maritime: Could you tell us why the Mission to Seafarers is here in Saudi Arabia?

Paul Trathen: We have been present in other GCC countries for many years with our operation imports caring for seafarers. We have been in Bahrain no great distance from here in Dammam for a considerable period and even longer in the United Arab Emirates.

We have a long-held ambition to be part of the maritime scene here in Saudi Arabia, and we realise with the growing Vision 2030 that much development and growth is happening here. We want to be part of those conversations. Our passion is for the welfare of seafarers who come from all around the world and travel all around the world, and we're hoping that we can start to build stakeholders and relationships here towards being present in some way in one or more of the side of ports.

Seatrade Maritime: What is it that the Mission to Seafarers does for its seafarers?

Paul Trathen: We've traditionally done three things:

  1. Simply providing a presence, a friendly face, a visitor to onboard ships as they come and dock in port.
  2. Secondly, to provide the opportunity, if there is some opportunity for shore leave, to come away from the ship and to have a home-from-home in a seafarer's club or a seafarer's center.
  3. And thirdly, where there are particular pressures and issues, a need to have a deeper conversation, to have people who are trained and equipped to listen.
    There are as many issues of mental health, of loneliness, of separation from family, which we readily encounter with seafarers. Or they may be ones related to employment. Whether there are bad employers, contract breaches, renewing contracts for the wrong side of the world, after long, long periods under contract. And in the most extreme situations, abandonment or abuse of seafarers. And then with others, we often act as an intermediary, as a trusted middle partner, to help those conversations, resolve the situations, to care for the seafarer, and put things right where we can.

Seatrade Maritime: Now that the pandemic is at an end, do you think that the international focus has moved away from seafarers and that we may be in danger of forgetting this very valuable service?

Paul Trathen: I think we are. The mantra we often repeat, and we are a volunteer-funded organisation, we're a not-for-profit organisation, and so we're constantly wanting to tell the story. The story we tell is that 90% of everything that we receive, our goods and services, comes by sea, and that means seafarers. And they are literally out of sight, and too often out of mind.

Briefly, during the pandemic time, people were more alert to global supply chains, and our message was easier to hear. In fact, we saw and we're grateful for it, we saw additional support for our work during that time, and we are now deploying those funds, strategically, including, we hope, here to expand our work into Saudi ports.

But yes, as soon as it is said, it is forgotten again, and so we constantly are telling that story; seafarers making those invisible, vital people visible again, is right at the heart of what we've been doing for a very nearly 200 years.

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