By JEFF DRANE, SM

This last year has seen church groups in Aotearoa New Zealand working together more closely to offer a better service to seafarers, as well as cut costs and waste from duplication or competition.

Stella Maris (previously known as the Apostleship of the Sea) is working alongside the Anglican Mission to Seafarers and the International Seafarers Society, as a collaboration of all the other churches. All three groups are now working together to establish what is becoming a world movement of starting Port Welfare Committees.

These committees are networks of churches and port authorities, governmental maritime authorities, seafarers’ trade unions, pilots and other agencies working for the welfare of seafarers in a collaborative way.

We now also have shared national gatherings and regional gatherings with Australia, so that training and updating for the work is the best. This builds relationships between welfare providers, so when ships travel from one port to another we can refer seafarers confidently and they can access the services they need in the next port.

All this is a response to both the Australian and New Zealand Governments signing the Maritime Labour Convention, which, in article 4.4, assures seafarers they will receive welfare services and they will receive them as best practice. Best practice means good mental health, best practice means safe working conditions, it means fairer wages and that they can connect with family and local culture when in port.

Seafarers can so easily be exploited in all these areas, but work is ongoing so that their visit can be reasonable and happy.

Sunday, July 14, has been designated as Sea Sunday — A Day of Prayer for Seafarers by New Zealand’s Catholic bishops.

Fr Jeff Drane, SM, is national co-ordinator of Stella
Maris in New Zealand.

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