Crew Health Administrator Stuart Last comments on a recent trip with Mission to Seafarers to the Tilbury docks:
"On Monday 30th July, Sophia Bullard and I were invited by Mission to Seafarers (MTS) to meet Miranda Peters, the assistant Chaplain working for the charity, at Tilbury Docks.
MTS work in over 200 ports in 50 countries Worldwide supporting one and a half million seafarers dealing with problems such as shipwreck, abandonment and stress caused by acts of piracy. Chaplains, staff and volunteers offer emotional and spiritual support at drop-in seafarer centres or through ship visits. As well as emotional support MTS, in Tilbury, also provide practical items such as sim cards for phones. During the trip I noticed another big crew morale booster is when the Mission provide train tickets for seafarers to spend their off duty hours on a day trip into London.
The port’s seafarer centre, which continues to be refurbished, offers a warm and friendly environment for crew to socialise, play pool, watch a movie and relax. There is even a karaoke machine where they can sing a few tunes. Despite my offering to accompany her on the guitar sadly Sophia declined this opportunity. There is even a bar for crew to have a few beers or a lemonade whilst off duty and, of course, we encouraged the staff to keep the seafarers drinking to a minimum.
As well as Miranda we also met one of the centre’s committed volunteers, Peter, who was retired from his previous work as a shipbroker. Peter gave us further insight into MTS. He enthusiastically discussed how just one day a week or a few hours of a volunteers time can make such a difference, not only for personal confidence but also to provide friendship and empathy to the crew. Volunteers can have a real positive affect on seafarers wellbeing whilst they are a long way from home.
The highlight of the day was a ship visit and chance to meet some Filipino crew. Chaperoned by Miranda we attended a 37000 ton bulk carrier, Heranger which was at the time discharging plywood.
We made our way to the mess room and were soon greeted by the vessel crane operator whom was taking a well -deserved break. As with all conversational icebreakers we initially chatted the weather and how our recent tropical climate was planned by the charity to make the crew feel at home. Word soon got around that we were on board and we were gradually met by further crew, a real friendly atmosphere ensued and the banter flowed, one crewman enthusiastically laughed at England’s semi-final failure in the recent World Cup. It seemed to raise his mood so I think we can forgive him. Amongst ourselves we discussed topics as varied as basketball, Harrods, food, the traffic in Manila and chatted freely about the crane operator’s fondness for Ed Sheeran’s music. We even gave the crew a few lessons in cockney rhyming slang.
We presented the Club’s 150th safety competition and handed out cards promoting the initiative. Sophia provided a demonstration of Risk Ahoy and shared information on the game’s safety and educational benefits along with information on where it can be downloaded.
After a few hours on board it was time for the crew to go back to work and for us to depart. Our new friends, the crane operator and first engineer escorted us to the exit and waved us off, watching eagerly as we carefully walked down the apples and pears back to the quay.
One of Mission to Seafarers initiatives is providing a gift box for crew at Christmas time. These presents are essential items such as shaving kits, books and woolly hats and really do make a difference to seafarers wellbeing during a time when they are so far from home and are missing their families. This year the crew health team will be encouraging all UK P&I Club employees to donate items which we will take to the seafarer centre in December for wrapping and distribution. More detailed information to follow."