In September, the level of redundant container ship tonnage reached its highest level since March 2014, according to statistics by Alphaliner.
While this isn’t good news for an industry already feeling the pinch due to depressed container rates it also affects crew employed on ships that have been laid-up.
Many are worried about their long-term employment contracts and skeleton crew who remain behind to look after laid-up ships may feel isolated, disheartened and anxious to contact family back home.
Needless to say most container shipping companies do all they can to look after the material welfare of seafarers in times like these, but what about their psychological and emotional needs?
This is where seafarers’ charities like Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) are able to provide pastoral support to seafarers when it is needed. With a presence in around 200 ports worldwide, AoS’ port chaplains and ship visitors are able to offer friendship, advice and comfort to seafarers of all nationalities and religions.
In Great Britain, AoS has 15 port chaplains serving all the major container ports and many of the smaller ports in the country. Recognising the changes brought about by containerisation where ships no longer stay in port for days but for hours, AoS has also evolved from providing seafarer centres into a proactive network of chaplains and volunteers that go on board ships to meet the crew at their workplace.
AoS Felixstowe port chaplain Sr Marian Davey supports seafarers on the ships she visits
Last August, AoS Tilbury port chaplain Wojciech Holub supported the crew of ro-ro vessel Norstream after they were left distressed and anxious following the discovery of 35 migrants inside one of the ship’s containers.
The crew, mainly Filipino, asked for a service to be held on board and for a blessing, which Wojciech was able to organise with the help of a priest.
Upon leaving the ship, the captain handed Wojciech a note which said, 'Gentlemen, thank you very much for your support and for your beautiful service today.’
AoS is a supporting charity at this year’s Intermodal Europe 2015 conference in Hamburg and AoS will present a session at the event.
“At the heart of the container industry are the crews on the ships who, day in, day out keep it moving in all sorts of conditions. For nearly 100 years, AoS has provided port chaplains to look after the welfare of these crew,” said AoS director of development John Green.
He added, “Although ships and ports have become more automated crew still need access to welfare facilities such as communication and shore leave as well as being able to nurture friendships and attend to their spiritual needs.”
AoS will have a stand, F50, at Intermodal Europe 2015 in Hamburg. Please come and meet the AoS team and find out more information.