From ongoing COVID-19 restrictions to the Ukraine crisis, the events during the first few months of 2022 have thrown a whole host of challenges in the path of seafarers. In response to these issues, The Mission to Seafarers is helping to alleviate the impact these uncertain circumstances have had on seafarer welfare, as Revd Canon Stephen Thanapaul shares updates from Bahrain.
Seafarers have faced a challenging few months. New variants of COVID-19 continue to impact different countries, leading to lockdowns and restrictions that impact seafarers and leave them unable to go ashore. Many facilities also remain closed, leaving seafarers without support or basic services even when they can leave vessels.
Thankfully, locally in Bahrain, the government relaxed restrictions in March which marked the first time in two years that the local Mission network has been able to conduct ship visits to seafarers. During the first official ship visits, the Mission team met a number of crew who were affected by the conflict in Ukraine, which is unsurprising given Russian and Ukrainian seafarers make up 14.5% of the global shipping workforce. The Mission representatives were able to speak with Ukrainian seafarers about their families and provided an outlet for their internal worries caused by the safety of their families back home. This human interaction is incredibly important for morale on board and providing some external support, especially as seafarers have been stuck on vessels unable to go ashore.
In addition to this support, connectivity is a huge component of seafarer welfare to ensure they can stay in touch with loved ones directly. This has been increasingly important as crew are not permitted to visit facilities ashore and many have had their contracts extended due to COVID-19 restrictions. Having access to the internet can be a lifeline in these unexpected circumstances. During a recent ship visit, all the crew asked for local SIM cards to contact loved ones, but this is not possible due to restrictions on sale onboard. However, through Mi-Fi units in ports, crew have now been provided Wi-Fi on board by the Mission teams, to connect them to their families back home while in port.
The Mission to Seafarers Bahrain has been pleased to recommence ship visits and meet seafarers on board in circumstances where they are unable to access our Seafarer Centres. It is a pleasure to provide in-person support where it is desperately needed. We will continue providing care and support to seafarers despite what challenges arise and look forward to the Seafarer Centre re-opening soon.
*Note that featured image is provided by our Chaplain in Falmouth, during a ship visit to Ukrainian crew.