These have been extraordinary weeks across the world as we have seen the advance of Covid-19 globally. The disease is no respecter of borders or cultures and perhaps there is a new unity in our common experience.
Just as many of us are facing unprecedented changes to our daily lives, so seafarers are facing very particular challenges. Many who are finishing contracts are unable to leave ships because of restrictions on travel and transit. Some have got stuck in remote cities while en route to and from ships. Others are unable to join, meaning serious loss of income. Many are desperately worried about their families back home. In many ports, shore leave is denied. Access to normal welfare support is often now much more limited. I am proud of the way in which so many of our port teams have responded. It is of paramount importance that we protect seafarers at this time, that we follow best practice as well as government guidelines, in ensuring that we are not responsible for transmitting this virus to the crews.
Many of our Centres have had to close. Others are offering a minimal service which eliminates inappropriate human contact while seeking to meet need. Such ship visiting as is still allowed is carried out at the gangway – at a distance, often utilising Personal Protection Equipment and ensuring absolute attention to excellent hygiene. Within these parameters, we will continue to serve seafarers. And similarly, our work with seafarer families goes on, also amidst severe limitations.
We are working hard to develop new ways of working with seafarers, especially through much enhanced digital and social media contact. We are working to bring advice to seafarers in these very particular circumstances. We are looking creatively at new ways of service. I know that many centres are worried about money, as they lose vital income. We are looking with partners at ways in which we can respond to such needs. Some of our teams are using some of their time to volunteer in their communities in other ways, delivering food to the elderly for example. There is huge proactivity, at IHQ, within Regions and at local level.
It is undoubtedly a very anxious and disruptive time and no one can clearly see the future. However, all our collective effort is going into sustaining our work, maintaining our focus and supporting one another, as well as those we serve.
Thanks to you all, for your prayers, your love and your service.