The Mission to Seafarers announced the launch of a digital chaplaincy service, in response to the need for seafarers to be provided with remote support.
The Mission to Seafarers, working closely in partnership with the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), has launched an online ‘Chat to a Chaplain’ messenger service which provides remote support both for seafarers and their families wishing to speak to a chaplain during these unprecedented times.
The project, which has been funded in part by Seafarers UK, is led by The Mission to Seafarers and offers online support from a global network of port chaplains who are currently unable to provide face-to-face chaplaincy services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen a significant number of seafarers’ welfare facilities unable to function. Currently, The Mission is working to provide a service that is as effective as possible in these difficult times.
However, these are severely restricted with almost all 121 Flying Angel Centres closed, together with transport services. Where possible, The Mission is continuing with ship visits, but only as far as the gangway and with the highest provision given to hygiene and distancing. The limitations on current port-based welfare provision leave seafarers particularly isolated, less able to support and communicate with their families. All at a time when seafarers are facing very significant wider challenges in addition to immense worry about their families back home.
The new platform provides the holistic and spiritual support services that port chaplaincy teams are known for. The portals will be available via The Mission’s and ICMA’s Facebook pages, and on www.missiontoseafarers.org and www.icma.as. They will be staffed around the clock by chaplains across the world who will be able to provide free, confidential support to seafarers and their families. The service will offer seafarers the chance to access:
- One-to-one counselling
- Advice and signposting on issues to do with COVID-19, concerns over the extension of contracts and repatriation
- Family support and referral to the MtS Family Network in the Philippines
- Spiritual support
- Referral to a chaplain in the local area who may be able to arrange a gangway visit or other interaction via a local agent.
The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General for The Mission to Seafarers and Chairman of ICMA, commented:
“Providing a digital alternative to the usual support networks and channels is essential to enhancing remote welfare services, particularly where WiFi is available, to help ensure seafarers are supported during these uniquely challenging times. In collaborating with other maritime charities, we can ensure this platform is providing the best service possible to those on the front line of international trade.
“Whilst we know that the digital chaplaincy will never replace the major benefits of face-to-face interactions with seafarers, it does mean that we will be able to make our service more widely available to seafarers and provide support around the world at any time, day or night.”
The Mission continues to investigate what support seafarers need at this challenging time. To access the new chaplaincy platform, please use the following links: www.missiontoseafarers.org and www.icma.as