Port News: The Mission in Busan, South Korea and Kobe, Japan

24th May 2023
Monica Park, Chaplain in Busan, South Korea, and Revd Paul Tolhurst, Chaplain in Kobe, Japan, shed light on the activities of seafarers in their respective regions during February 2023.

Through reports like these, The Mission to Seafarers (MtS) offers a unique understanding of the challenges faced by seafarers and their families. Similarly, the Seafarer Happiness Index (SHI), a vital resource utilised by MtS, underscores the global and perennial challenges faced by seafarers and highlights areas requiring attention. For example, the first quarter of 2023 saw a decline in average seafarer happiness levels across all but one category, with social cohesion, limited shore leave, and inadequate welfare support being significant concerns.

The Mission to Seafarers remain committed to supporting seafarers and their families year-round, dedicated to overcoming and addressing these key issues in the industry. The February port reports from Busan and Kobe serve as powerful reminders of the crucial work being undertaken to enhance seafarer happiness across the board.

Busan, South Korea

Monica Park, the Chaplain at Busan, shared details of the Valentine’s Day activities that took place in February 2023. Given the ongoing lack of shore leave for crew members in the region, resulting in limited human interaction and the ability to celebrate special occasions with the outside world, The Mission to Seafarers organised a special Valentine’s Day event for seafarers on board ships.

Monica and her colleagues prepared and delivered Valentine’s Day gifts consisting of chocolates, masks, and reading materials for the crew of 11 vessels in total. Having advertised this special service on Facebook prior, the team were greeted by two very happy Filipino crew members who had spotted the post and were eagerly awaiting their gifts. This just goes to show the power of communication and the joy it can bring.

We hope through our collective efforts, we can bring a little light and hope to seafarers, whose lives are often fraught with challenges. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic that the issues surrounding overtime and the lack of shore leave will be resolved soon. By overcoming these challenges, seafarers will have the opportunity to come ashore and partake in celebrating these significant occasions alongside the rest of the world.

Kobe, Japan

Revd. Paul Tolhurst, the Chaplain in Kobe, Japan, provided updates on ship visits that are now taking place in the mess room, which allows for greater social cohesion compared to meetings during COVID-19. It is also encouraging to hear that an increasing number of crew members are being granted shore leave in Japan, yet another sign that things are gradually returning to normalcy post-pandemic.

The significance of shore leave for the mental well-being of seafarers cannot be overstated. An uplifting example of this occurred in mid-February when the Kobe centre welcomed 22 Indian and Bangladeshi trainees and their instructors. These trainees were on their maiden voyage and were extremely excited to experience Japan for the first time, taking full advantage of the chance to go shopping and relax. By the end of the day, the centre was filled with joyful and smiling seafarers, as described by Revd. Paul Tolhurst.

For those unable to come ashore, the centre in Kobe continues to deliver small snack packs to each vessel. While our efforts alleviate some of the frustration experienced by seafarers, the Q1 2023 Seafarers Happiness Index survey revealed a decline in overall satisfaction. The survey indicates that the key areas of concern include shore leave and a desire to access welfare services ashore, with seafarers reporting growing frustration with ship owners who extend their contracts for longer periods than desired and cause delays in the sign-off procedures.

In tandem with assisting seafarers confined to their vessels, The Mission to Seafarers continues to work closely with shipping companies and shore-based managers to advocate for shore leave and improved welfare services. Addressing these challenges requires industry-wide collaboration and concerted efforts to enhance seafarer well-being, empower seafarers and foster a more fulfilling and rewarding maritime industry.

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