Big changes coming to Toronto’s port

Judith Alltree in front of a snowy lake and the Toronto skyline.
The Rev. Judith Alltree, executive director of the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario, at Toronto’s port in 2019.
 on March 1, 2020

Last year will not go down as our favourite year, but as it’s now 2020, I think we can say that we made it through, so there is something positive and hopeful ahead for the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario.

In May, 2019, our iconic mission building in the Port of Toronto was demolished to make way for a service road to the Cinespace/Netflix studios at the former Warehouse 51 building. In October, we were able to lease new space at Warehouse 52, and we can move in once the flooring has been replaced – but don’t ask me how long I’ve been waiting!

This year will see some big changes at Toronto’s port. There will be more cargo ships coming to Pier 51. The usual complement of “sugar ships” will begin arriving at Redpath’s “Sugar Dock” in early April. We continue to need Ship Visitor Volunteers at both Pier 51 and the Sugar Dock. For those interested, there are online courses and on-site training available. The most important thing to know about being a Ship Visitor Volunteer is that you have to be able to climb up a three- or four-storey gangway (staircase) between the dock and the deck!

If you aren’t able to climb the heights, there is another option. Great Lakes Cruising has caught the attention of Royal Viking, whose two passenger ships will be dedicated to the lakes and will begin sailing in 2021. In the meantime, there will be more cruise ships in and out of Toronto this year, beginning in May. While we are often limited by security reasons from boarding the cruise ships, we will begin operating a “stationary station” at the end of the gangway this spring to assist the ships’ crews. This is a role for volunteers who are unable to climb a gangway but might be available, with a vehicle, to help a crew member get some quick shopping done. The turnaround for cruise ships can be just a few hours and their crews have a very limited amount of time to get a lot done. This is a ministry of presence, which is a very important role for us.

In the Port of Oshawa, we have a dedicated group of volunteers at our Terry Finlay Seafarers Centre. They are knowledgable and hard working and continue to humble me whenever we get together. We are hoping to add to our complement of volunteers this spring and summer. They help in so many ways, including visiting the ships, keeping the station open in the afternoons and evenings, and driving seafarers into town. Unlike Toronto, whose docks are located downtown, Oshawa’s port is isolated from the town itself, so our volunteers spend a lot of time driving the incoming seafarers to the local shopping malls for groceries, to exchange money, and for general shopping.

Of course, just to be able to talk to someone is often what the seafarers need the most, to get help and support. Being good listeners is often the best role we play.

 To volunteer for the mission in either Toronto or Oshawa, contact the Rev. Judith Altree at [email protected]. The Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario also operates in Hamilton



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