71 Nations Celebrate Sea Sunday

Published Jul 12, 2015 5:42 AM by The Maritime Executive

Global maritime welfare charity, The Mission to Seafarers’ campaign Sea Sunday kicked off on Sunday in hundreds of church congregations around the world. This year highlights the work their teams do responding to emergencies at sea and their aftermath. 

2015 started with a series of shipping tragedies which included the sinking of two vessels the Cemfjord off Wick in Scotland and the Bulk Jupiter close to Vietnam in east Asia – on both vessels nearly all on board were lost – all eight crew were missing presumed dead on the Cemfjord and 18 seamen were lost on the Bulk Jupiter, with one survivor. 

In Southampton Sound in the South of England, the car carrier the Hoegh Osaka narrowly avoided a similar fate, when it listed severely on leaving port and was run aground to save it. Two crewmen were injured, but all the seafarers were rescued by the coastguard.

The Mission to Seafarers’ teams respond to those who face danger at sea, and support seafarers and their families in their hour of need in 71 countries and 260 ports worldwide. 

In Wick, after the Cemfjord tragedy, the Mission’s Port Chaplain helped to organize support for the families. The Reverend Tim Tunley said: “When tragedy of this magnitude happens, we offer counselling and support to the families left behind. Of the eight crew, seven were Polish nationals, and one was from the Philippines. We contacted our colleagues in Poland at the Apostleship of the Sea and liaised with them and local churches to bring support and pastoral care to those bereaved. We also contacted the family in the Philippines, and referred them on to our MtS colleagues in Manila. 

“I worked closely with the shipping company, our fantastic local volunteers and the community in Wick who were all effected by the sinking so close to their shores.”  

Last weekend Tunley attended a memorial service in Wick with the families from Poland who had been flown over to attend, and he holds a Sea Sunday service in Wick this Sunday.

Off the coast of Vietnam on January 2 this year another vessel sank with one survivor. The Bulk Jupiter was a bauxite carrier that got into trouble in heavy weather. It is reported that she listed severely to starboard before sinking. All on board were lost except the chief cook who has since been repatriated home to the Philippines. 

The Mission to Seafarers has recently set up a new initiative in Manila to support seafarers and their families. The Mission to Seafarers’ Families Support Network has been in contact with the relatives of the Bulk Jupiter crew who lost their loved ones and who are still looking for answers as to why the ship sank. 

In Southampton Port Chaplain John Attenborough was first on hand to respond to the coastguard’s emergency call for help for the crew of the stricken vessel the Hoegh Osaka. The Mission has issued an interview with John on their YouTube channel describing the events of that fateful night. Mercifully no lives were lost and the crewmen received support and aid from The Mission to Seafarers on the night of the tragedy, and daily visits in the weeks afterwards as they recovered before being repatriated home. 

Sea Sunday is held in 71 countries around the world by The Mission to Seafarers. It is marked with services of thanksgiving and prayer to remember the hard work that seafarers undertake by bringing 90 percent of all imported goods to shore by ship, night and day, 365 days a year.

The Mission’s port-based welfare services include:

Emergency support: When a ship and her crew are in danger and have been abandoned, the Mission is on hand in the world’s ports to provide emergency help and assistance once seafarers are brought ashore.

Ship-visiting: The Mission’s chaplains visit hundreds of ships a day in ports around the world to provide a friendly welcome and offer help, support and advice.

Flying Angel centers: The centers can be found in 100 ports and offer refreshments, television, books, recreational activities, internet, phone facilities and the chance to spend time away from the ship.

Justice and welfare services: When a seafarer has not been paid, is working in substandard conditions, being bullied or has been a victim of wrongful arrest, The Mission’s staff can intervene and put them in touch with professional support and legal advice through local expertise and contacts.

Communications: The Flying Angel phone card is known by seafarers everywhere, providing a vital link to friends and family. The Centres provide telephones and wi-fi internet for email and Skype calls. 

Counselling: Harsh working conditions, tensions between crew members and isolation from friends and family can take their toll on seafarers, leading to depression, anxiety and loneliness. The Mission’s chaplains are experienced counsellors, on hand to listen and offer sympathy and advice.

Transport: Many ports are located in industrial areas miles away from towns, shops and amenities. The Mission provides transport so that seafarers can make the most of their brief time ashore.

Emergency support: In cases of pirate attack, shipwreck, abandonment, serious injury or bereavement, the Mission is on hand to offer whatever assistance a seafarer needs, from food to phone calls home.

Post-trauma care: The Mission’s chaplains are trained to recognize and respond to signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. In the aftermath of pirate attack, shipwreck or industrial disaster they offer a caring response in the midst of post-event interrogation and bureaucracy.

High-level advocacy: The Mission works to uphold seafarers’ rights and ensure justice, fair pay and good working conditions at sea. It is in constant dialogue with the shipping industry, international governments and regulatory bodies.

Spiritual support: The Mission to Seafarers is a missionary agency of the Anglican Church. Its chaplains provide Christian services, spiritual support and opportunities for prayer and quiet reflection. The Mission serves seafarers of all beliefs and works in partnership with other faith groups to meet their spiritual needs, whatever they may be.