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Charities continue providing seafarer welfare amid coronavirus restrictions

Seafarer charities are continuing to provide welfare services despite restrictions on activities such as ship visits and shore leave being enforced in some countries in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

In particular restrictions are being enforced by countries on vessels that have come from Chinese ports, and this has stopped seafarers from taking shore leave or visitors going onboard vessels. On the other side of the equation some vessels also apprehensive about visitors coming aboard in countries such as Singapore where there have been 77 confirmed cases of the coronavirus to-date.

The Missions to Seafarers Singapore port chaplain Toh Soon Kok, told Seatrade Maritime News: “We try to visit as many ships as we can. But also depends if the ship welcomes us…they are also afraid of us transmitting the virus to them, so they may also have protocols they have put up on visiting the ship.”

If they are unable to board the vessel they leave behind contact details for MTSS and essential information about the port and Singapore at the gangway so that seafarers can seek support if they need it. “If someone needs deeper counsel they can always give us a call,” he explained.

The MTSS has also seen lower numbers of seafarers visiting its drop in centre at Jurong Port. “Since the precautionary measures kicked-in we have seen a tremendous drop in the number of visitors to our centre,” Toh said.

This is due to a combination of any seafarers that have come from a Chinese port in the previous 14 days not be allowed shore leave, and some ship Masters being concerned about their seafarers coming ashore in Singapore at the present time.

Global seafarer charity Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea), which has a ship visiting network in over 300 ports in 40 countries, is continuing ship visits although has been forced to suspend activities in the Philippines and South Africa.

“We continue to visit ships and support seafarers but are making sure our teams are aware of this latest situation and advise them to adhere to the guidance issued by their local port authorities and health offices,” said Stella Maris ceo Martin Foley.

“We have been informed by our colleagues in the Philippines that the Philippines Port Authorities has stopped all welfare service providers and other related organisations from boarding ships. Similarly, our teams in Cape Town South Africa have been asked to suspend ship visiting until further notice,” Foley added

He added that the global nature of shipping means that any infectious disease is a risk for seafarers as they travel and Stella Maris recognises the possible impact the outbreak may have on seafarers’ mental and emotional wellbeing while being ready to support seafarers and their families.

Read all Seatrade Maritime News coverage on the impact of the coronavirus on shipping

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