Isle of Man Ship Registry Director, Cameron Mitchell, has spoken of the importance of religion to seafarers as the sector finds itself in an ‘unprecedented’ seafarer crewing crisis.
Mr Mitchell told BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ programme that removing isolation among seafarers was central to its initiative of becoming the first flag state to broadcast a mass direct to crew aboard its ships. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFCStAIoZhk&feature=youtu.be)
The organisation broadcast the first mass to ships last weekend via its new seafarer welfare app ‘Crew Matters’, which has been developed with Liverpool-based training company Tapiit Live.
He told the programme, which focused on the crew-change crisis brought about by the pandemic, that masses would be beamed to ships across the world every Sunday in a bid to assist with seafarer welfare.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do with the app is to remove elements of isolation, to get people out of their cabins and come together for things like a mass.”
The app enabled the mass to be beamed live from a church in Manila in the Philippines with technical support from Tapiit’s UK team. The mass was led by Father Paulo Prigol, the chaplain of Stella Maris-Manila, who is part of the Scalabrinian Missionaries which is responsible for seafarer welfare.
Masses will be now available to all Catholic crew among the 10,000 seafarers and 400 ships sailing under the IOMSR flag. The Registry also plans to offer the religious service up to other denominations and faiths.
Seafarer wellbeing has come under the spotlight after travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic led to estimated figures of about 400,000 seafarers left stranded on ships, with a similar figure stuck at home unable to work.
The radio programme also heard some seafarers have now been aboard their vessels for up to two years, some without pay. In some cases, they have been left on ships by shipping companies, unable to travel home and without adequate food and water.
The International Maritime Organization has repeatedly called for urgent action to address the crisis. The programme heard from Fred Kenney, the IMO’s Director of Legal Affairs and External Relations Division Chair of the IMO Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) who said:
“Governments need to have policies and practices that will allow for the safe conduct of crew changes, to designate seafarers as key workers and implement policies that will allow for crew changes to occur.”
The Crew Matters app, designed to support those on ships, includes social activities such as live gym workouts and Tapiit’s award-winning training classes, as well as access to a health and wellbeing library and interactive support sessions. In addition there is a live SOS function which provides immediate access to the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) helpline, SeafarerHelp 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and Stella Maris’s chaplaincy services in in 54 countries around the world.
There are also practical elements such as links to trade union Nautilus with details of membership, news, careers, and jobs and training opportunities, and information from the ship registry including the master’s handbook, shipping notices, IOMSR news feeds, marine traffic and local port services.