World’s first digital seafarers’ centre

MtS launches Happy at Sea app to put its support services in the palm of crews’ hands

By Verity Relph

Find a seafarers’ centre, pre-order shopping, request a ship visit, book transport, access news and wellbeing resources – wouldn’t it be great if all of this could be in one place? With the launch of its much-anticipated Happy at Sea app, The Mission to Seafarers (MtS) is providing seafarers with access to all of this and more.

“This is the world’s first digital seafarers’ centre and it’s exclusive to MtS, the world’s largest provider of seafarers’ centres,” explains Ben Bailey, director of programme for MtS.

Free to download, the new app offers seafarers centralised access to the MtS services, which are available day and night, 365 days of the year.

What sets it apart is that it is the first app completely dedicated to helping seafarers access port welfare services. It is essentially a one stop shop where seafarers can find information about facilities available in port, put in requests for help, and access resources to support their mental health and wellbeing. “It puts seafarers in charge of their welfare and will allow them to pre-order their needs,” says Ben.

Why now? For more than 150 years, MtS has been providing essential emotional, spiritual and practical support to men and women working at sea. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity relied on technology to reach seafarers. Its network of centres found innovative ways to connect with crews, providing pastoral support and taking shopping orders when crew had no way of getting ashore.

As Ben explains: “The idea for the app came about because of the pandemic. During that time, we were receiving an increasing number of requests via social media, email, SMS, etc. and while local teams have the capacity to deal with these, we felt the moment was right to develop an app which would provide seafarers with a ‘one stop shop’ for accessing all MtS locations across the network.”

Need for access

Lockdowns may have ended, but as recent feedback from the Seafarers Happiness Index has shown, problems with shore leave continue and many crews have little or no opportunity to get time away from ship. Ever-in- creasing turnaround times, heavy workloads and limited communication facilities are further barriers to accessing welfare support. Seafarers need to access information and sup- port quickly, without having to worry about using up all of their precious data.

Thanks to funding from DNV, Cargill, and The Seafarers’ Charity, MtS was able to develop an app which directly addresses the increasing digital needs of seafarers. Its aim is to provide them with easier access to welfare services and to tackle some of the present- day challenges of working at sea, including loneliness, mental health issues, and connectivity.

The app also benefits welfare workers struggling to find ways to connect with seafarers. As well as allowing easier contact with crews arriving in port, the app offers port teams the ability to prioritise ships that have requested visits, and to provide the broadest range of services.

Seafarers can register for an account using Facebook, Apple, Google or an email address. When setting up a profile, there is the option to enter more personal information to allow the app to serve more tailor-made content if desired.

One of the principal features of the app is the ability to search the Mission’s directory of over 200 ports worldwide. Seafarers can find information about the welfare services available in port ahead of time and check in to their local Flying Angel seafarers’ centre. The app also gives them the ability to save a port as a favourite, making for easier check-in and contact next time they are there.

Another key function is requests. Shopping formed a major part of MtS’ work during the pandemic and calls for help with purchasing items ashore continues. Seafarers can now request shopping to be delivered ahead of arrival in port. They can also request Wi-Fi and SIM cards so they can make contact with loved ones, and even arrange transport into the local shopping mall or town.

Global network

Central to MtS’ work is its global network of chaplains, who are there to talk through problems and provide practical support where it is needed. Crew now have the ability to request and arrange a visit from a chaplain before their arrival in port.

Seafarers can also take part in the Seafarers Happiness Index survey. In just a few taps, using the chatbot- style interface, they can answer questions and give feedback on their recent experiences at sea. Once they have completed the survey, they then have access to a range of advice and resources, as well as the ability to track their own happiness. The app is also where seafarers can now access The Sea, keep up to date with news and access MtS’ extensive range of wellbeing resources.

Importantly, these resources are all available offline, meaning that even those with limited internet access can benefit. The app’s small size also means resources can be downloaded easily, which is so important when seafarers need data to contact family back home.

The new app is essentially about empowering seafarers to take control of their port welfare needs, ensuring that they get the help they need when they need it most.

In New Zealand, where the app was initially rolled out, port teams are already seeing the impact. “We have had wonderful feedback regarding the access to the resources,” comments The Revd Lance Lukin, regional director for Oceania & Pacific region. “These have been well received and seafarers are looking for more offerings in the devotional and spiritual care space.”

MtS has always striven to evolve its support and services in line with seafarers’ needs. The charity is already thinking about how the technology could be developed further, for instance how it could be utilised by partner organisations. “Initially, the app is available to MtS,” says Ben, “but in time we hope to offer this to other seafarers’ welfare organisations so that it makes life at sea easier for crews.”  

To access the app, download it from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for Android. For further information, visit Our Brand New ‘Happy at Sea’ App (