Viewpoint from Peter Paine for 23/7/10
Port and Industrial Chaplain
Member of Gorleston Baptist Church
I wonder what image you now have in your minds? ‘A girl in every port?’ perhaps, or ‘Plenty of shore leave and money to bur
n?’ These are not uncommon images as there hasn’t really been anything to replace them over the years. The British merchant fleet has declined to negligible numbers so it’s unlikely that we are related to or know a seafarer anymore, ports are no longer in town or city centres and containerization of goods and the new security code brought in following 9/11, means we don’t see seafarers any more. Generally this means, our image of them still comes from a bygone age.
But why, after 154 years, is the Church still looking after seafarers and their families? Well, to explode a myth, the recently erupting unpronounceable Icelandic volcano may have driven the planes from our skies but, contrary to popular punditry the supermarket shelves didn’t empt
y. There may have been a momentary drop in the levels of Kenyan Bobby Beans, but this aside, because ships transport over 90% of world trade, and supermarkets only get just over 1% of their stock delivered by plane, our way of life continued virtually uninterrupted.
At the end of their voyage, which can last several weeks, the glimpse of land, which has been so longed for, all too regularly passes in a whirlwind of loading and unloading on a featureless dockside, often far away from any town or place of civilization, before their journey begins all over again.
Rapid turn-around times and increases in port security brought in by regulations imposed internationally following the attack on the twin towers have seriously reduced seafarers’ opportunities to get ashore. This means they spend nearly all their time on board ship, with all the pressures and frustrations this can entail.
I wish to ask you to please remember The Mission to Seafarers in your prayers, as a fellow member of the Body of Christ and as it carries out this important and life-changing work locally and globally on behalf of this and the wider Church. and perhaps most importantly of all, I would ask you to please pray for seafarers and their families. They are just like you and me; but because of how they live, we have fuel for our cars and homes, food in our shops and clothes on our backs. So the next time you drive to the nearest petrol station, reach up for a jar of coffee in the supermarket, or put on your shoes to go outside, please spare a thought and a prayer for those whose way of life has made this something we rarely have to think about.