As More Ships Head for Cape Route, Stella Maris Sets Up for Crews' Needs

Stella Maris
Port of Dar-es-Salaam (World Bank file image)

Published Jul 3, 2024 11:45 PM by The Maritime Executive


To meet the needs of the growing number of vessels on the Cape route, The maritime charity Stella Maris has launched a new office in the East African port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

Due to the anti-shipping campaign launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, about half of the traffic that once passed through the Suez Canal has diverted to the Cape of Good Hope. While far longer, this is much safer for ships and seafarers than risking a Houthi missile or bomb-boat attack off Yemen, and it is bringing more business for ports along the route to the Cape. Ships need repairs, supplies and bunkers, and that means more traffic; Mombasa and Dar es Salaam are near the new trade lane between the Persian Gulf and the Cape, and positioned to receive more vessels. But the longer trip around Africa comes with its own stresses for crewmembers, according to Stella Maris.  

"Our new mission opens at a time when seafarers need additional support with the rising numbers of vessels diverting here to avoid the Red Sea," said Stella Maris' Jonathan Heard. "Not only does this mean more crews passing through the region; it also means that seafarers face being at sea significantly longer – sometimes months longer – than they anticipated."

That extra uninterrupted time at sea can translate into loneliness and mental health challenges - which Stella Maris is set up to address with a range of services. The charity provides seafarers with free WiFi while in port; spiritual support and pastoral care; help in accessing medical care; and the simple benefits of a friendly conversation. "We want to ensure that every seafarer visiting the African continent can get the help they need," Heard says. 

Stella Maris' team of chaplains and volunteers also communicate with each other to hand-off cases and ships from port to port, giving each location's staff a running start to help the vessel when it arrives. Now, Port of Dar-es-Salaam will be part of the network, and will be prepared to help seafarers passing through on a newly-popular route.