Andrew’s February Blog 2024

22nd February 2024
Oh yes, the vulnerability of seafarers to the uncertainties and terrors of our fragile world remains very visible.

The attacks and threats in the Red Sea are the latest sudden and serious issue facing crews. The real possibility of experiencing incoming rockets is frightening indeed. In our Middle East and South Asia Region, all ships that have been victims of an attack are being tracked, and support for the crew arranged in the next port of call. What a miracle it is that there have been no deaths or serious injuries so far. Surely, and tragically, that is unlikely to stay the case if this pattern continues, although we hope and pray otherwise. More widely, teams across all our regions are meeting seafarers who are either stressed about the prospect of traversing the Red Sea routes, or perhaps anxious about the implications of “the long way around.”.

While there has been plenty of news coverage about what is happening in the Red Sea, perhaps the human face of it all has been less prominent, given the invisibility of seafarers (and on which we so often comment). With the fallout from current events now just beginning to hit the supermarket shelves, certainly here in Europe, maybe some deeper thought will be given to the human side of it – and to possible solutions. Of course, there are all kinds of issues. Should seafarers on ships that will be transiting be allowed to choose not to do so, without penalty? Should there be additional pay? Should security teams be placed on board? And what about additional training? All these things bring major questions for our colleagues across shipping, many of whom I know to have the safety and well-being of seafarers at the very top of their agendas.

These issues have the potential to have enormous knock-on effects for seafarers and their families. We will continue to support and influence as much as we can. And let’s not forget the crew of the Galaxy Leader, who remain hostage off the coast of Yemen.

It was a pleasure to have spent a week in Singapore last month. It is an enormous port with a vast number of ships. As you fly in, you are always struck by the endless lines of ships at anchor. It is also a global centre of maritime, increasingly perhaps the global centre. I had an extraordinary timetable, racing around maritime companies, many of them already key partners for us. It was an intense programme with up to nine high level company visits a day, with half-hour taxi journeys in between.

Everywhere, we were met with great friendship and offers of support. It was an illustration of the profile we currently enjoy across maritime, and of the success of work done by our local team in Singapore, by Jan Webber, her team, and our many ambassadors. It also showcased the impact of last year’s Adventure Race Japan, in which so many from across Singapore’s companies had taken part. Above all, though, my visit was a chance to meet with our local committee and team. Under the leadership of Chaplain Soon Kok, the local work is extremely impressive, with around 350 ship visits a month, including by launch to the anchorages.

This is inspiring. However, we are keen to explore with our local committee how we can support them in developing that work yet further – as part of our “key hub” project. We enjoyed an excellent shared meeting, and I look forward to seeing the outcome of the exploratory work they have set in motion. A really exciting time lies ahead, I believe, for MtS Singapore, as with so many of our ports in our current time of fresh ideas and new development.

As I move towards the last months of my time with The Mission to Seafarers, I look forward to the remaining opportunities and to preparing the way for my successor. Next month, I will be visiting some of our new work and partners in the USA, a current focus of our strategic development. On Friday 1 March, I look forward to a major relaunch of our important work in the United Arab Emirates, where we have a redeveloped team building on the extraordinary work of many years. I also look forward, as always, to meeting with our Europe team at their regional conference next month—also at a vital moment, with very many new staff and chaplains. There will be much to inspire, and I look forward to sharing some of what I learn in next month’s blog.



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