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THE Day of the Seafarer this past Friday was marked at Port Botany and Port Kembla with pizzas and donuts for crews on vessels berthed at the ports.

NSW Ports teamed up with Mission to Seafarers to deliver 245 pizzas to the 310 seafarers on the vessels.

Given current COVID-19 restrictions, most of them have been at sea for many months without shore leave. 

NSW Ports head of corporate affairs Vida Cheeseman said the company was pleased to offer a small slice of local comfort to these vital workers.

“Australia is an island nation, with 98% of our trade arriving by sea. In managing both Port Botany and Port Kembla, we see first-hand the critical role these seafarers play in connecting our ports to domestic and global marketplaces, to support the people and businesses of NSW,” Ms Cheeseman said.

“We are particularly thrilled to partner with Mission to Seafarers to deliver this special care package today. The mission plays an important role in looking after the pastoral needs and advocating for the welfare of Seafarers.”

Day of the Seafarer Mission to Seafarers
Delivering delicious things to ships at port. Image: Michael Kelly

 Sydney marine pilot Captain Michael Kelly said International Seafarers Day should be a second Christmas for seafarers.

“I’m a member of the port welfare committee here in Sydney, and our goal is to assist the seafarers any way possible,” he said.

“It was great to have NSW Ports provide the pizzas. Sister Mary [of Stella Maris] also provided Krispy Kreme doughnuts, chocolates and extra care packs for the ships.”

Mr Kelly said, “One captain commented, ‘it was great to see the crew messroom full of excited and happy crew enjoying the food, gifts, the care we receive at Port Botany will always be in our hearts’.”

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WiFi for seafarers

NSW Ports has also worked with Seafarer Connect to roll out free WiFi at Port Botany to enable the 19,000 seafarers who visit Port Botany each year to call home and connect with friends and family.

Through the Seafarer Connect initiative, port officials hand the ship’s master a pelican case containing a Cradlepoint WiFi kit specially developed by the Sydney Telstra Business Technology Centre to get seafarers online through their phones, tablets and computers.

Bernie Farrelly from Seafarers Connect said, “It’s very special when you see seafarers getting some face time with their families after months at sea, it’s pretty emotional to be honest”.

“The mental health benefits for crew, who are often at sea for over a year at a time, of phone, Zoom and messaging contact with loved ones cannot be overstated. It really is a case of plug and play. It’s fantastic seafarers moving containers, petrol and gas through Port Botany can now keep in contact with their loved ones.”

A seafarer who recently visited Port Botany from Russia recently told Seafarers Connect regardless of rank or country of origin, the ability to connect to high speed WiFi free of charge made it a little easier to be away from family and friends.

“Everybody on board is thankful for the opportunity to call home and speak with family,” he said.

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