A cluster of maritime support agencies is working frantically to ease the distress of sailors left in limbo by the Coronavirus.
Centacare Brisbane’s Apostleship of the Sea is a part of the national coalition bundling up care packages to comfort those stranded on cargo ships.
This comes in the wake of many countries and ports imposing strict quarantines, often against advice of the United Nation’s International Maritime Organisation.
The normal life of seafarers is a tough grind already but under COVID-19 restrictions it is a journey without end.
Whilst international trade continues and ships can disburse cargo, the seafarers who safeguard these goods enjoy no such privileges, unable to even step ashore.
Instead they are to remain on board, trapped indefinitely, until the pandemic passes. Under IMO principles, cargo ships are obliged to facilitate crew changeovers and the transportation to a home port for seafarers who have completed contracts.
This has been turned on its head by COVID-19 however, with crews often denied shore leave and replacement crews unable to relieve them in orderly transition.
In Australia the sailors are trapped by an unfortunate Catch-22, in that they can alight under very strict conditions but ships’ captains prefer not to risk coronavirus infection coming back onboard.
The Apostleship of the Sea’s pastoral care has adjusted as best it can to meet the new restrictions.
Onboard visits to the ships are prevented, as is transporting homesick crew back to the AOS drop-in centre at Wynnum.
These regular practices have been replaced instead by distant waves from the dock and the non-contact drop-off of care-packages at the gangplank.
To try and lessen the impact of such rigid social distancing the AOS staff and volunteers have been busy with the packing and distribution of over 200 care packages.
These contain personal items and treats likely to be scarce after 6-9 months at sea, such as beanies, knitted and donated by the ladies’ group at Alexandra Hills Capalaba parish, toothpaste and brushes, body wash, deodorant, lanolin, shaving cream, chips and sweets.
A recent $3000 donation by the TK Foundation in the USA has allowed AOS to keep producing the care packages, but more help in the form of cash or donating personal hygiene items will be graciously accepted.
Centacare Pastoral Ministries head Judy Norris is full of admiration for the way the AOS have been creative and not let the coronavirus sideline their outreach.
“It’s been a real effort to stay in touch with the seafarers, but in partnership with the National AOS office in Sydney and sister organisations here in Brisbane like the Anglican Mission to Seafarers we have been able to do something very practical,” Ms Norris said.
“This is a way of saying to vulnerable people who are far from home ‘here’s a bit of a treat, to make life more comfortable,’ and to let them know we are thinking of them.
“It’s only right that we do think of their pastoral care, because Australia is so reliant on trade and shipping that their work is critical to our nation’s health and wellbeing.”
Funds are needed to support local efforts in providing care packs to seafarers. Tax deductible gifts can be made online here: https://catholicfoundation.org.au/centacare/seafarers/
It costs around $15 to assemble each pack.
Personal hygiene items and other non-perishable goods can be delivered to the Apostleship of the Sea at the Corner of Tingal Road and Pine Street, Wynnum, during business hours.
Please contact Lloyd West, Centre Manager, on 3348 6629 if further information is required.