Hundreds of Church congregations in the United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland, will highlight the tragic plight of abandoned seafarers suffering in maritime ports all over the world this ‘Sea Sunday.’
In the UK alone, the Christian organisation Mission to Seafarers’ has witnessed some extraordinary cases of abandoned vessels in the last year, which caused untold misery and distress, with ships’ crews being left penniless in port, and lacking water, fuel and basic food supplies.
MtS provides essential emergency support to those seafarers who become the innocent victims of bankrupt shipowners and who can be stranded for months while long legal battles are fought to recoup costs and sort out the bills, which can run into £millions.
One such story is the MV Donald Duckling which was abandoned in the Port of Tyne in November last year.
The Filipino crew had little food and their vessel was deemed unsafe, with rumours circulating that the ship owner had gone bust.
They were even fishing over the side for their next meal. MtS stepped in straight away and looked after the crew by providing proper food, clothing and transport to shore so that they could contact their worried families.
The ship was stranded over Christmas which was particularly painful for the seafarers, with loved ones being so far away.
In other ports, such as in South America, Africa and East Asia, conditions on board can be even more desperate, with temperatures soaring to over 40C and inhuman conditions made worse by the risk of vermin and insect infestation.
The Revd Ben Humphries, MtS Port Chaplain in Mombasa, Kenya, said: “I helped one abandoned vessel called the MV Lanka Mahapola.
“It was in a terrible, filthy condition and not really seaworthy. The crew were short of food and thirsty. The men needed their wages to send home, so they were trapped on board.
“I managed to get them phone cards, arrange a regular supply of food and kept them company.
“No-one was there for them except the Mission and I put them in touch with the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the international seafarers’ union. It is appalling to think that abandonment can also happen in the UK.”
Sea Sunday is held in nearly every county in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with services of thanksgiving and prayer to remember the hard work that seafarers undertake for British people, by bringing 90 per cent of all imported goods to these shores by ship, night and day, 365 days a year.
The Revd Andrew Wright, Secretary General, MtS, said: “These cases show the deep trauma of being stranded far away from home without a friend.
“The Mission is that vital connection to the port community for emergency help and support.
“We have teams monitoring the UK’s 166 local ports and further afield in a total of 71 countries across the globe; trained, caring professionals and dedicated volunteers, ready to assist seafarers in distress.
“But we can only do that through your generous donations. If you can, please hold a Sea Sunday event in 2014 to show thanks to those largely forgotten men and women, of every race and creed, working in often dangerous conditions, upon whom we all totally rely.”
If you want to find out more about Sea Sunday or would like to hold a Sea Sunday fundraising event in 2014 with your friends, just call us.
We provide great free materials to help you get started. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our Sea Sunday website and download posters, fundraising leaflets, children’s activity sheets and notes: www.seasunday.org.
Please also join the conversation on Twitter #seasunday with @flyingangelnews.