Seafarers’ association votes for Port of the Year
Singapore, Copenhagen, the Indian port of Kandla, Brunsbüttel or maybe Bremerhaven after all? These five ports are the nominees – but which will win the title “Port of the Year” that is awarded every year by the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN)? “It is with great pleasure that we now announce that this global award goes to Bremerhaven,” said Martin Günthner, Senator for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports. He continued, “It is the seafarers themselves who have made this choice and thus shown their appreciation of the work that is done for them.” This award has nothing to do with throughput figures or efficiency, but considers solely the welfare of those who have to work under the particularly challenging circumstances at sea.
There are around 1.6 million men and women worldwide who go to sea. They are exposed for weeks on end – sometimes even months – to enormous pressures, such as changing time zones and highly diverse climatic conditions, living at close quarters and limited scope for leisure pursuits on board. Added to this, they are separated from their families and friends. “Despite ongoing digitalisation, there is still not enough freely available access to the internet or mobile phone networks,” says Werner Gerke, Port Chaplin in Bremerhaven. The Mission to Seafarers therefore offers free internet access and international phone cards so that the seafarers can keep in touch with home while they are in port in Bremerhaven. Even those whose ships only tie up for a short time can still go ashore in Bremerhaven, as the operators of the container and auto terminals provide a free shuttle service to the Seamen’s Club, while someone from the Mission to Seafarers comes to collect seafarers from other parts of the port. The bikes donated by Bremerhaven’s Nautical Association last year are another popular option and can be hired from the Seamen’s Club free of charge.
The pilots, river police and port medical officers inform the crews about the services offered by the Mission to Seafarers and the port before they even leave the ship. Seafarers also appreciate the fast assistance provided by the federal police if they need a visa. Together with representatives from the trade unions, the accident insurance associations, the port business community, port authorities and the Mission to Seafarers, they make up the port’s social services advisory board, which meets regularly to discuss the work of the Mission to Seafarers. “The seafarers’ welfare is a prime concern for many people involved in the port business,” continues Gerke. “This was clearly evident at last week’s events to celebrate the ‘Day of the Seafarer” at the Seamen’s Club, which was attended by more than 150 people; half of them were seafarers, the other guests represented the port and the city of Bremerhaven. Volunteers from the Nautical Association attended to the barbecue, students from Elsfleth Nautical College and Lloyd High School competed against international crews from various vessels in a basketball tournament and tug-of-war. They were spurred on by the cheerleaders of Bremerhaven’s own basketball team, the “Eisbären”, with EUROGATE employees acting as the referees. In other words, the Seamen’s Club ‘Welcome’ really lived up to its name.”
25,000 seafarers at the Seamen’s Club ‘Welcome’, 6816 overnight stays and 14,984 daytime visitors to the Seamen’s Home, 1270 visits on board the ships, 1136 Christmas parcels – these figures describe the work of the Mission to Seafarers and its Chaplin Werner Gerke. They do not include the counselling sessions in times of crisis, visits to seafarers in hospital, pastoral care in religious matters and guided tours for groups of visitors who wish to learn more about work at the port. “My great thanks go to Chaplin Pastor Gerke and his team and to everyone else involved at the ports for the great dedication they show to the seafarers,” said Günthner. “It is thanks to this widespread support that we can offer such a warm welcome to the many seafarers who come here. As the Senator for Ports, I am delighted that in addition to our international standing as a port location, we have also acquired such a positive reputation as a caring and friendly port.”
Robert Howe, Managing Director of bremenports, accepted the prize in Manila on behalf of the port.