Crosby charity calls for Xmas support for 'isolated' seafarers

By Simon Hart

Ecumenical charity Liverpool Seafarers Centre (LSC) has appealed for prayers and Christmas gifts for seafarers, fearing they will be hit hardest in the run-up to Christmas. 
 
LSC’s chief executive, John Wilson, says that without seafarers, many of the gifts we give to loved ones at Christmas would not be available. With huge numbers of them cut off from their loved ones back at home, Mr Wilson appealed for prayers and donations of toiletries, confectionery, fresh fruit, CDs and recently released DVDs to be taken onto ships to benefit those on board. 
  
The centre aims to put together 500 individual gifts this Christmas, an increase on the usual 300 it gives to seafarers. It will present each vessel with a ‘ship present’ such as a box of chocolates together with the individual gifts and also individual Christmas cards handwritten by volunteers. ‘We will try where we can to ensure every vessel that is physically going to be at sea on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day after leaving Liverpool has a present from us. With vessels that are in the port on Christmas Eve, meanwhile, we’ll make sure they all have something to open on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day too,’ explained Mr Wilson.

Some parishes in the Archdiocese, meanwhile, are expected to remember seafarers on the Sunday before Christmas, 20 December, after Covid-19 restrictions meant Sea Sunday was not celebrated in July as it usually is. 
 
Impact of pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of seafarers are stuck at sea, working long beyond their contracts due to the pandemic – a situation compounded by the second UK national lockdown. International Maritime Organization (IMO) figures estimate that as many as 400,000 seafarers each month are stranded at sea waiting for repatriation with a further 400,000 ashore waiting to relieve them, often waiting with little or no pay. The IMO reports that some seafarers have now been at sea for 17 months without a break, well beyond the maximum 11-month limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).  
 
The Crosby charity fears the mental impact on seafarers will be exacerbated during the Christmas period. Mr Wilson said: ‘We already know the effects the pandemic is having on seafarers mentally, with many describing feeling isolated and forgotten. We also need to consider that, for people of faith, Christmas may come without the possibility of being able to attend places of worship. 
  
‘Seafarers have brought vital supplies to our shores throughout the pandemic, continuing to work while many operations shut down. Without them, many of the Christmas gifts we buy and give to loved ones would just not be available to us. It’s vital that we now show them the same support they have shown us.’ 
  
Mr Wilson said the response from people on Merseyside had already been impressive and added: ‘We hope many more will follow their lead in remembering seafarers in their prayers this Christmas and, if possible, offering a donation to ensure they have a memorable Christmas.’ 

For more information about LSC, visit: http://liverpoolseafarerscentre.org/