Global maritime chaplains have reached out to thousands of stranded cruise crews telling them 'not to lose hope' even if they currently feel 'like prisoners' of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stella Maris sent the messages of comfort via letter to various cruiseship companies where many crew members, have been left stranded on board.
In a letter sent to cruise companies Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises and Grandi Navi Veloci, Stella Maris Genoa director deacon Massimo Franzi told crew members: 'You are not alone... you are not abandoned. Do not lose hope.
'In this difficult period, full of fear and uncertainty, we remind you that even if you feel yourself prisoners you must not lose hope. Even if your difficult life has become even more difficult, even if you are worried about sick colleagues... you are not alone,' Deacon Franzi wrote.
Several cruise companies have temporarily suspended sailings, leaving crew onboard their ships. Larger cruiseships normally have around 1,000 crew members, often living in close quarters below decks.
Deacon Franzi said although Stella Maris chaplains are currently not able to visit cruiseships and minister in person to crew members due to social distancing measures, 'our hearts are with you'.
Stella Maris has assured seafarers its service is continuing to support seafarers during the Covid-19 crisis, working in close partnership with colleagues around the world, the maritime industry, trade unions and others.
Many chaplains already communicate by email, WhatsApp, social media and telephone. The charity says it will undertake port visits in order to provide welfare packages and other support to seafarers and fishers, with the permission of port authorities and in full compliance with Government directives.
Nautilus members who are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.