The world paid a great deal of attention to a gigantic container ship that somehow swiveled in the middle of the Suez Canal and blocked all vessel traffic for a week. Suddenly everyone knew about shipping and containers, and our attention was riveted to photos of tiny-looking tractors trying to remove enough sand from the side of the canal to pry the behemoth loose. A week later, they were successful and the ship was moved to the side of the canal while the various governments and insurance companies, flag states, charterers, etc. fought about who was to blame and who was going to pay.
Well, we’re paying. The prices of everything have gone up a lot since then, no matter what the origin of the goods we are buying. An interesting point: only 10 per cent of the world’s trade travels through the Suez Canal; the rest sails around the world from various places and gets where it’s going without going through any canal. So what’s up with the price increases on almost everything? Not sure I can explain that.
I can confirm, however, that seafarers aren’t getting more pay. And there are still way too many of them stuck on their vessels (approximately 200,000 seafarers) for way too many months over the end of their contracts. We are still meeting seafarers in our ports in Oshawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Port Colborne who haven’t been off their ships in months. Recently our chaplain in Port Colborne took the captain of a ship docked there on a shopping trip for vegetables at 7 a.m. to avoid the crowds; the captain hadn’t received his first “jab” yet and didn’t want to risk becoming infected and jeopardizing his crew. “I haven’t been off this vessel at all for four months,” he told Deacon Diane. “Please, can you help me?” And because that’s who we are and what we do, they were at the front door of the grocery store in Welland when the doors opened.
For Sea Sunday on July 9, the team at The Mission to Seafarers’ international headquarters in London put a service together with input from around the world. Less a religious service than a documentary on our work, I encourage everyone to have a quick look at it (www.missiontoseafarers.org/sea-sunday) because you will hear from the people “on the ground,” including our Middle East/South Asian regional director, the Rev. Andy Bowerman, who spent time in Egypt on the Ever Given (the cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal), and has also supported a number of seafarers who have been abandoned by their shipping companies in that part of the world.
For nine years, I have had the privilege of working with some of the finest clergy and lay chaplains and ship-visitors with the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario, and together we have had the further privilege and honour of serving some of the finest people in the world, the seafarers, who serve each of us unselfishly, with dignity and honour, dedication and loyalty. Those who work at seafarers missions are the hands and feet of Jesus, helping and supporting those who help and support us, no matter what their faith or cultural background, doing what Jesus has called us to do. We are part of the largest, multi-faith, non-denominational ministry in the world and are very proud of that.
Please remember the role that seafarers play in our lives: “No shipping, no shopping.” Think of that over your next cup of tea or coffee, or while you are out shopping in a big box store. If you want to learn more about the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario or how to donate, visit our website at www.mtsso.org. To volunteer, contact me at [email protected]. Thank you.