I started ship-visiting earlier this year under the guidance of Fr. Ariel Irrazábal, the port chaplain. As a retired priest in Argentina, this was an excellent opportunity for me to explore a new ministry and support Fr. Ariel. After the on-line training course, I began to visit ships in the main container terminal in the port of Buenos Aires.
This was my first experience of getting up close and personal with these monster ships with crews that in the past we would have called “skeleton” as they consist of no more than twenty-five seafarers. I have learnt how to move safely around the port and to climb the almost vertical gangways before introducing myself to crew, members, usually in the dining-room where they have their midday meal.
Finding the right moment to visit these ships is not easy as the turn-around time is limited sometimes to 24 hours with half the crew resting. Often we are invited to eat with them and can chat with crew members who are usually of various nationalities, principally from the Philippines, Korea, and India. English is the main common language and we distribute biblical material in English and other languages.
Although some ships have WiFi others appreciate the offer to communicate with their families through a free service offered by Fr.Ariel via a router on his mobile. Whenever there is a chance we hold a short devotional service for those crew members who desire it with a biblical reflection and prayers. They also love having a group photograph taken!
As the only organization which is dedicated to ship-visiting in the port of Buenos Aires (or any other port in Argentina), after an interval of many years, ours is a pioneer work that I am sure God will bless if we carry it out faithfully.
Fr. David George (volunteer ship-visitor)