Supporting the essential task of seafarer vaccinations in the Port of Baltimore

28th January 2022
Reverend Mary Davisson, The Mission to Seafarers Chaplain in Baltimore, shares her experiences of supporting seafarers in Autumn 2021, as the challenges relating to further COVID variants increased, and highlights the importance of being able to help in the most unexpected moments.

In Baltimore, our time was often spent supporting the essential task of seafarer vaccination. We were lucky as it was possible to facilitate several crews for vaccination on a weekly basis. Our vaccination providers were also busy with landside booster clinics for state employees but often managed to schedule two or three ships a day, when their schedule permitted, working from as early as 7:30 am and past 5:00 pm.

To support this vaccination drive, our Mission family in Baltimore often worked 50-hour weeks to arrange vaccinations for seafarers in ports. However, in addition to this, there are often unplanned calls for assistance that come at unexpected moments and, it is in these moments that our adaptability and unwavering support is so essential.

In October 2021, a seafarer who had been on board the vessel for over 12 months needed to urgently fly back home, but his visa had expired while his vessel had been anchored for a month. As it was a weekend, logistics were instantly a challenge and he contacted The Mission for help late on a Friday night.

Reaching the agent, authorities and organising the passage early on Saturday morning was a challenge. Further hurdles included the unfortunate complication that the closest ITF inspector was ill and couldn’t drive to Baltimore to process the documentation. Thankfully, Chaplain Don Bryant, supported by a Mission to Seafarers grant, accessed the vessel, spent time onboard and sent the critical paperwork electronically for processing to ensure the seafarer could fly home on Sunday. These grants ensure seafarers, during the most unexpected circumstances, are supported and have an accessible network of experts to provide assistance.

There is no doubt that our day to day work is essential for the welfare of seafarers, one of the most overlooked key workers around the world. We are still seeing issues relating to COVID-19 continue to impact seafarers, and this is unlikely to change in the months to come. However, everything the Mission can do to help does make a real difference to their lives.

The work we do, from buying saxophone reeds for a cook unable to go ashore with a passion for music, to transporting a group who really wanted to see Baltimore’s Washington Monument during the few hours they had ashore, is a real lifeline for seafarers.

We look forward to continuing this essential work and making a real difference.

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