Andrew’s March Blog 2024

8th March 2024
As I write the blog today, we have just heard about the first three deaths as a result of the Red Sea attacks.

These are each unthinkably tragic but also, I fear, have become inevitable. It is something of a miracle that they are the first. How we long for peace, and our thoughts and prayers remain with all those impacted. This incident will further fuel both the fears and stresses of crew sailing in or towards the danger zone. It will also lead to further disruptive route diversions with longer transits, bringing a different kind of challenge for seafarers. Our MESA (Middle East and South Asia Region) teams are tracking all attacked vessels and seeking to ensure crews are visited in the next port of call. And, of course, our chaplains and volunteers all over the world are dealing daily with those facing the prospect of a dangerous or disrupted voyage. We will continue to do all we can to support in our increasingly fragile world, one which poses such particular risks for shipping and for seafarers, who can be so vulnerable.

March has included the announcement of my successor. Our Trustees have worked hard on this process, and I am absolutely delighted to welcome Peter Rouch, who I know will provide strong leadership as the Mission moves towards the next phase of its development. As I have said, it has been the very greatest honour for me to lead the Mission through such an exciting and challenging period and, in particular, to have worked alongside such wonderful and inspiring people right across the world. Peter will begin on 1 July and after a month of handover, he will fully take the reins on 1 August.

I was very pleased to be in Dubai for a visit by our President, HRH The Princess Royal, on Friday 1 March. It was a spectacular day which included a tour of Jebel Ali, one of the world’s great ports, attendance at a Women in Shipping Conference, and a very special Dinner with 70 of our most influential and generous supporters. We have been in Dubai since 1962. As an important maritime hub, our maritime welfare work has been vital for seafarers and appreciated locally. During the lunchtime conference, we signed an important Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) with the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure.

This will underpin our shared aims of ensuring the very best in welfare support for visiting seafarers. Our work is entering a new phase. The work with abandoned ships that dominated so much in recent years will continue, but at much lower levels given that, thankfully, that workload is now much reduced with far fewer cases. We have been able to express our gratitude to local authorities who have worked hard to help end this scourge. Looking ahead, our work will be largely refocused on providing enhanced and effective welfare support to visiting crews throughout the ports of the United Arab Emirates. This will mean further investment in ship visitors, and we hope that HRH’s visit will combine with the MoU to ensure the port access, which is so vital and that has been so much more of an issue in many ports across the world since the pandemic. We remain deeply grateful for the transformational work of our President over 40 years.

Next week, I head to the USA to visit some of our exciting new work there and also look forward to attending our Europe Region Conference. There will be much to say next month.

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