Mission to Seafarers' Oceania Regional Director Reverend Lance Lukin is supporting the thousands of seafarers arriving who cannot get home because of COVID-19 maritime restrictions and border closures.
The Mission to Seafarers’ have been designated as essential workers, providing welfare support to crews in ports around the country.
“I’m very aware that the mental health of seafarers is particularly fraught and that is due in part because crew changes just aren’t able to occur,” says Reverend Lukin.
With crews unable to get home and with limited communication with their families, Lukin and his team are growing increasingly concerned over the mental health of the seafarers – many of whom are from India and the Philippines.
Reverend Lukin says that globally, and following discussions with his UK and Canadian counterparts, there are stories emerging of seafarers harming themselves in order to get off ships.
The Wellington-based Chaplain says a seafarer spends, on average, nine months at sea. At the end of the nine month period, and under normal circumstances, new crews would arrive to relieve those on board. However current COVID-19 restrictions and border closures globally mean that contracts are ending and crews can’t get home – or even step foot on land.
“We are regularly getting people come into our ports in New Zealand who have been on ships for 13, 14 or 15 months. That has a major impact on their mental health.”
“They’re not able to get home at the end of their contract period, they have limited access to their families and when they are talking to their families a million miles away, they’re worried about what is going on at home.”
“Most of them are from countries that are being ravaged by COVID so they are really anxious about that.”
Reverend Lukin says even when seafarers receive a clear COVID test they have limited shore leave, which effectively means they can get off the ship or stand on the port.
“It’s very rare that they can get into the community. They can at least go to a Seafarer Centre, get access to some Wi-Fi, a cup of coffee, talk to someone who isn’t a seafarer and hope that they can get some mental health support.”
To help connect crews with their family and friends once in port, Reverend Lukin has helped roll out free Wi-Fi provisions at ports like Napier and Auckland. In other ports, where they cannot do the same, he and his teams are taking Wi-Fi units onboard ships.
As well as dropping Wi-Fi units, the Mission to Seafarers’ team, who wear PPE when delivering items to ships, also drop off groceries, and things like chocolate, chippies, knitted beanies, and mental health resources to crews.
Reverend Lukin says New Zealanders can make a real difference in the lives of those at our ports right by dropping off items to Seafarer Centres nationwide.
Toiletries including body wash and toothpaste, and Kiwi treats, like honey and chocolate are little luxuries that “show these crews that we do care”.
Board games and books are also items Lukin is keen to provide to ships.
To donate items and find your nearest collection point, email: firstname.lastname@example.org