The Mission to Seafarers has launched a new flagship campaign to address the severe welfare issues facing seafarers worldwide in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Flying Angel Campaign has targeted a funding total of £600,000 to deliver this new programme.
The Mission to Seafarers has been assessing the needs of seafarers through the Seafarers Happiness Index, and the use of its recently launched digital support system ‘Chat to a Chaplain’. Although circumstances are evolving with some crew changes possible, it is clear that seafarers are still suffering, and their mental health and wellbeing will continue to be significantly impacted in the long term. In response, the Mission will be focusing on two main strands to offer support: resilience in ports and technological innovations to improve connectivity.
The Mission’s port-based centre provisions are at the heart of the support provided to seafarers but Covid-19 has seriously undermined the ability to deliver that service. To improve the Mission’s ability to ensure continuity of care, the Flying Angel Campaign will provide PPE for all port teams to ensure frontline teams are protected. Additionally, to safely transport coronavirus-free seafarers and to keep them safe and healthy, vehicles will be adapted, including screens between the driver and passengers, plus provision of sanitisers and antiseptics. This has already been undertaken in Manila where the Mission has been called upon by the government to transport seafarers to and from their homes.
The most urgent need is to prepare seafarer centres to receive seafarers in a safe and Covid-19 clear environment. This means that each of the 121 Flying Angel Centres needs to have a deep clean before opening, as well as screens fitted to protect staff and seafarers.
As shore leave becomes more difficult and welfare access to ships restricted owing to Covid-19, the Mission fears that seafarers’ worries and anxieties have become heightened during this crisis. It has already been proven that technology can significantly improve seafarer wellbeing, particularly with the uptake in the use of the digital chaplaincy service, which is available to seafarers 24/7, and has been kindly sponsored by Seafarers UK and the Marine Society for the first six months.
The Mission will build on this work and create a digital welfare hub for seafarers and their families, ensuring its service users have access to wellbeing resources, its internationally renowned chaplaincy services and provide a place where seafarers can make their voices heard.
However, the Mission also recognises that many seafarers are still without access to the Internet on board ships, hugely impacting their ability to utilise its services, or contact loved ones at home while isolated at sea or quarantined on vessels. The Mission is still visiting ships in some parts of the world, but these are limited to either the bottom or the top of a ship’s gangway and the organisation aims to open up communications by providing more mobile Mifi units, as part of the Flying Angel Campaign. Chaplains will lend the units to ships arriving in port to create local Wi-Fi networks which will enable crews to keep in touch with those they love.
The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, secretary general for The Mission to Seafarers commented: “We have seen a huge increase in the need to support seafarers during the Covid-19 pandemic and this unprecedented challenge requires an unprecedented response. As we emerge from the initial lockdown period into a somewhat changed world, we need to address a range of very important priorities. These are vital if we are going to be in the very best position to address the needs of seafarers and their families. To that end, we have launched our Flying Angel Campaign to ensure our international key workers have support, guidance and connectivity during an extremely isolating and challenging time. We have huge appreciation for the work that our seafarers do and we really hope this new programme of change will benefit those who need it most.”
Last month the Mission announced the appointment of two new vice-presidents; Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping and Dr Grahaeme Henderson, vice president at Shell Shipping & Maritime.