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In its centenary year, Stella Maris is playing a pivotal role in supporting seafarers around the world, explains Martin Foley chief executive officer/European regional coordinator
THE MARITIME CHARITY COLUMN
Normally we undertake around 70,000 ship visits annually: during the pandemic the restrictions meant swiftly adapting to a different approach to seafarer wellbeing – and tackling issues of a scale and magnitude never seen before.
The relationships built up over many years between seafarers and Stella Maris mean that seafarers know where and how to get help. The breadth of our network means we can work not just in a port, but over great distance to reassure seafarers, their families and shipping employers alike.
The Stella Maris Chaplain in Santos, Brazil, worked closely with the local authorities and was informed of every hospitalised seafarer to ensure help was available to them. In Montevideo, Uruguay, our local chaplain visited a cruise ship where 60% of the crew were struck down with Covid-19. At personal risk he regularly visited those in hospital to ensure they were fully supported before being repatriated.
Our relational approach has enabled hundreds of welfare packages to be delivered to vessels, comprising essentials such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), toiletries and foodstuffs. Perhaps our most vital service has been helping seafarers stay in touch with their families through the provision of internet access and phone cards.
By all means, let's welcome the plethora of Apps, programmes and initiatives supporting seafarers' wellbeing. But please don't neglect the importance of that personal, human touch. This is fundamental to Stella Maris.
The maritime charity column is a regular feature in the Nautilus Telegraph. Submissions are invited from a range of organisations by the Telegraph editor.