Sr Mary with seafarers working on container ships and gas tankers that deliver fuel and cargo to Port Botany.

“No Seafarers, No Shipping, No Shopping”

With Sea Sunday approaching on 10 July, we are challenged once again to reflect on the lives of seafarers.

Seafarers and fishers are critical to global trade. They toil daily on cargo and cruise ships as well as fishing trawlers all over the world.

Their work is often hidden and unknown to society, yet we rely on ships and the seafarers who work on them to fill our supermarket shelves, Apple shops, pharmacies etc. Ships carrying 90% of work trade also deliver fuel, cars, and all the essentials to our global ports.

Needless to say, Australia being an island nation, is totally reliant on shipping.

Yet too often, seafarers are not respected or even thought of by our society. This was particularly evident during the Covid pandemic, where seafarers’ human rights were further eroded. They were and still are basically imprisoned on their ships, unable to return home, to step ashore for a break, to receive vaccinations or to have access to telecommunications.

Because of the constant advocacy of welfare/pastoral care organisations such as Stella Maris within the local and global maritime and government authorities, seafarers suffering was brought to the fore and eventually some help was given.

But seafarers are the last to be vaccinated despite them being essential workers. Sadly, our society is happy to be delivered all the essential cargo and commodities by them but has little interest in them as human beings.

This reality further isolates seafarers whose mental health and well-being are already at risk. Even today after almost three years of Covid, the plight of seafarers remains out of sight and out of mind.

Paddy Crumlin (President of the International Transport Federation) puts it well when he says, “We should therefore, as a society, take a far greater interest in the struggles and circumstances of a workforce that is often subject to mistreatment or just plain disinterest from employers and governments the world over”.

Seafarers continue to struggle, working well beyond their contracts and are they are still virtually imprisoned on their ships, without access to shore leave, as well as many still waiting and begging for vaccination.

This Sea Sunday gives us an opportunity to engage in the welfare of seafarers through advocacy, volunteering and donations.

Please remember to hold seafarers and their families in prayer at all times.

You can donate to the Stella Maris Sea Sunday Appeal 2022 here.

Sr Mary Leahy
Port Chaplain, Sydney