With the current COVID-19 situation getting more unpredictable due to rising infection rates, Wales is currently facing stricter lockdown rules compared to many ports in other parts of the United Kingdom.
However, this has not hindered The Mission to Seafarers Port Chaplain, Reverend Mark Lawson-Jones and his team from providing essential services to both local and international seafarers who are currently being denied shore leave due to the virus.
With around two-thirds of crews being denied shore leave, the team have quickly adapted their strategy in order to provide vital provisions for the men and women who have been stuck at sea for several months. From hundreds of pairs of winter socks and underwear, toiletries and food to Welsh souvenir fridge magnets as mementos of their travels, the team have left no stone unturned. In addition. In addition to the usual requests, books were sourced for a captain who is revising for a career change in his homeland of Peru, ordered from a publisher and delivered to port before sailing. These small but significant actions give seafarers the support they truly need.
In fact, the Mission to Seafarers South Wales Port branch carried out an impressive 61 socially-distanced ship visits, accompanied by 30 online interactions to seafarers onboard vessels within the vicinity of ABP South Wales in the past month.
Speaking of the most recent work, Reverend Mark Lawson-Jones said: “Every crew has been grateful for our help and support, even though we have encountered some strict regimes, which has meant we have been unable to board. Not to be deterred, we have spoken to crews from the quayside, and in some cases used a megaphone.
“I am also delighted to report that the Newport Seafarers Centre has re-opened, due to the hard work of Edward Watts and his group of volunteers. This was no easy task, especially as Newport is currently in ‘local lockdown’ subject to several enhanced restrictions. There has been a steady flow of seafarers attending the centre most evenings and for those that are being denied shore leave, we continue to help in any way we can. Soon, we are starting to collect Christmas gifts from our supporters and friends, we hope to give out five or six hundred gifts to seafarers as usual.”