Seafarers are Key Workers—We must support them

On National Day of the Seafarer 2020, Maritime Director and Harbour Master, Steven Clapperton highlights the essential role of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic—and details how we must continue to support them.

Seafarers are absolutely on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, often overlooked, and playing a critical role in keeping the country and international trade moving. With 95% of all goods arriving into the UK by sea, men and women at sea are essential to maintaining the flow of vital supplies: food; medicines; PPE.

This year, Day of the Seafarer pays tribute to seafarers, acknowledging their sacrifice and the issues they face.

Many have been away from home for months. Many are unsure when they will be able to return home to their families and loved ones.

These are trying times for seafarers; we must recognise them as key workers, and show solidarity.

Here at the Port of Tyne we’re doing our absolute best to support visiting seafarers: we’re open for crew changes; shore leave is available in exactly the same way as the Government allows residents to leave their homes during this crisis, and we’re doing whatever we can to facilitate our colleagues in the welfare organisations providing direct support.

Through our Port Welfare Fund, we have raised almost £18,000 for the benefit of seafarers visiting the River Tyne. Shipping lines are given the option to pay a voluntary levy each time one of their vessels comes into Port. The optional levy is based on the vessels Gross Tonnage, and is payable on its first ten visits to the Port each calendar year. The Port of Tyne then matches the levy, contributing 50p for every £1 collected.

40,000 seafarers visit the Port each year, and the money raised will go a long way in supporting them.

The funds will be distributed between three local organisations: The Mission to Seafarers South Shields; Apostleship of the Sea, and The Fishermen’s Mission.

Not only do these fantastic organisations provide financial assistance, but they are a real life line for the seafaring community—unwavering in their support.

I’m proud of the Port’s Welfare Fund. I’m proud of the fact that we have raised over £50,000 for the benefit of 120,000 seafarers since 2016. And, I’m proud of our local charities, who are making a tangible difference to those on the frontline.

Next time you buy your groceries, or even take a sip of your morning cup of tea, I urge you to spare a thought for our seafarers. After all, they’ve played a key part in the journey.

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