Attending to seafarers’ welfare is crucial to ensuring the world’s oceans and coastlines are in safe hands.
The Mission to Seafarers is an international mission of the Anglican Church that cares for the practical and spiritual welfare of seafarers of all nationalities and faiths. There are 230 Mission sites around the world. At our four centres in Victoria – Melbourne, Portland, Geelong and Hastings – work is carried out by a small number of staff, chaplains and volunteers who give freely of their time 365 days of the year. Each centre houses the ‘Flying Angel Club’ where seafarers are welcomed by a friendly face and can contact their families by phone or internet, and receive counselling during times of injustice or distress. The MtSV ship visiting program supports crew who do not receive shore leave and is a vital service to ensure these crew have the provisions and support they require.
While most seafarers are well treated, some are still abandoned in ports far from their homes, or remain unpaid or forced to work in unsafe or unacceptable conditions. In such situations, the Mission plays a vital role in providing practical care and moral support.
In an article written regarding the effects of depression on the seafaring community, titled ‘Dogs Under the Table’, author Ruth G. Mercado wrote “Death can take the agonizing process of healing for those left behind, but then depression is equally excruciating for seafarers.”
Far from the romantic adventures of the Arabian Nights’ “Sinbad the Sailor,” many seafarers consider depression to be their biggest storm at sea. Sailor Rod Ivan Puno wrote “Life at sea is like living in an aging world, a prisoner of opportunity, convicted for survival. As the sailor embraces the sea, he counts on lonely nights, killed in forbearance, crying in silence.”
Describing the life of a seafarer as a “prisoner of the sea”, third mate Tere-sito Veano, in moving prose wrote, “We, seamen, are like prisoners. We are deprived to be with our families, friends and loved ones.”