Maritime Charities Respond to COVID-19 Crisis

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Additional £3M for Seafarers and their families, House of Lords Heard

The maritime charity welfare sector has stepped up to support our seafaring key workers, the House of Lords heard today.  Speaking on behalf of the sector, Jeffrey Lord Mountevans praised members of the Maritime Charities Group (MCG) who are digging deep and some of whom are raiding their reserves to ensure that seafarers are supported during the Covid-19 crisis.

“Now more than ever, we are dependent on the seafaring community to maintain the supply lines and keep the UK fed,” he said. “We are very fortunate in the maritime sector to have the MCG and its members to identify and meet greatest need, as well as spreading best practice. From Seafarers UK to Trinity House, the Group’s ten members are working together to co-ordinate their response, fund delivery partners working on the ground and fast-track grants to those in need. Initiatives range from emergency grants for individuals to revenue support to keep seafarer centres operating.”

Help is needed right across the seafaring community – merchant seafarers and fishermen, ferry and cruise ship crew have all been affected. With severe restrictions in place in ports around the world, including the UK, many seafarers working on merchant ships are stuck on board without access to shore-based help and all leave has been cancelled.

Thousands of miles from home, worried about their own health and that of their families, support from the charity community is needed even more than ever. Fishermen are suffering too with the market from the catering trade at home and abroad all but dried up and incomes dropping fast. That’s why support from the maritime charity sector is so vital.

Speaking about the combined effort of their members, MCG Chairman, Cdr Graham Hockley LVO RN said: “Our members are working brilliantly together to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. Their job is to fund the front line charities so that they can respond to the unprecedented demand. And it’s not just working seafarers who need help; ex-seafarers are some of the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach in our society and seafarer families are suffering too.”

Highlighting the difference between MCG and others in the charity and voluntary sector, he went to explain: “We are different from many of our colleagues in that we are using our money to support the front line charities. Our members’ Covid-19 money is sustaining the infrastructure of seafarer welfare support around the world so that it can be up and running again when seafaring business gets back to a steady state. We are helping to keep the metaphorical welfare ship afloat at the moment but there’s a long-term funding crisis ahead that will require collaborative funding arrangements and government support.”

MCG member support so far includes:

  • Seafarers UK – has launched a £2m COVID-19 Emergency Fund, in addition to its budgeted £2m grants this year for charities and other organisations providing services and support for seafarers, as well as an emergency public appeal
  • Trinity House – a significant portion of its annual grants budget has been earmarked for charities working on the front line
  • The TK Foundation – over US$300k so far given to seafarer centres around the world and welfare organisations supporting individual seafarers in need
  • Nautilus Welfare Fund – supporting seafarers past and present including those in supported living and care homes
  • Seafarers Hospital Society – working with frontline providers such as the Fishermen’s Mission and Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society to plug the gap while fishermen and their families wait for Universal Credit, and with those supporting merchant seafarers in need
  • Merchant Navy Welfare Board – bringing together maritime charity welfare providers to exchange information and find solutions for seafarers and their families who are in hardship
  • Greenwich Hospital – has established an emergency fund for individuals and partner organisations working with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines
  • ITF Seafarers Trust – has set aside over £1 million for seafarers internationally and over £600,000 has already been allocated
  • Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity – has created a Naval Hardship Fund for those charities who are responding to above anticipated need and a support line has been set up
  • Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Lloyd’s Register Foundation grantholder CHIRP Maritime are leading an international campaign to get seafarers recognised as key workers by governments around the world. They have published a new series of papers about the impact of COVID-19 on seafarers which LRF are helping to publicise.

Sea News, May 1