Sailors' Society is switching its focus to 24/7 virtual support for seafarers and their families across the world, although it is not planning to close its seafarer centre in the UK.
The charity's global team will provide a virtual chaplaincy service available to all seafarers and their loved ones whenever and wherever they need support. This will run alongside the Society's 24/7 helpline and Crisis Response Network and its Peer-to-Peer support programme that has almost 80 groups so far, and the Wellness at Sea programme.
Its fully trained team will continue to be stationed all over the world, so they can answer calls and messages around the clock, as well as speak in a variety of languages and still support face-to-face when needed in a crisis.
Part of the catalyst for the change says the 205 year-old charity is in response to the fact that life at sea is changing with less time in port, smaller crews and a new generation of digital native seafarers who count on accessing services virtually. It also learned a great deal from the pandemic when it had to find new ways of keeping in contact.
Sailors' Society CEO Sara Baade, said: 'Having our whole support network in their phone means they, and their families, can get the care they need immediately, and we believe this is the future for seafarer welfare.
'Covid taught us many lessons in communicating virtually with the people we are here to serve – the world's seafarers. These key workers of the sea are hugely resilient, but arguably at their most vulnerable out on the oceans, where they may be isolated, anxious about personal or family problems or exposed to violent storms or the threat of piracy. We will now be right there with them when they need us the most.'
Ms Baade said Sailors' Society was not closing any seafarer centres. 'Our centre in Southampton will continue to run and be staffed. We will continue to have volunteers in ports as we have done for many years, in many cases supported by local churches.
'Some of the charity's port-based chaplains' roles across the globe have become virtual ensuring the support we offer is available 24/7 to seafarers, out at sea and at home as well as in port. Others have now become supported by fellow maritime welfare charities. In some cases, the chaplains have taken this opportunity to seek early retirement or voluntary redundancy and we have worked with them to give them the best support.
'Our chaplains will still provide vital welfare support, counselling and general assistance to seafarers and their families, but via phone or instant chat, so they can be there whenever and wherever someone needs help. But absolutely, we will still provide face-to-face support in times of crisis when needed.'