SAILORS’ Society has launched a new welfare fund to provide emergency support to seafarers and their families during crises.

The Sea Change Fund was set up in response to the growing number of calls received by the maritime charity, with demand for welfare grants increasing by 850% since the start of the pandemic.

The surge was driven by requests for financial assistance relating to food, rent, medicine and schooling.

The fund will provide small emergency payments to seafarers and their dependents matching the grant criteria to help address immediate needs.

“Calls for support have never been greater than now,” Sailors’ Society CEO Sara Baade said.

“We launched our Sea Change Fund to help answer these cries, so seafarers and their families who need urgent financial assistance to pay for food, medical bills, schooling or a roof over their heads can get support quickly.”

The charity said issues such as sickness, unemployment, and bereavement have left seafarers’ families struggling to put food on the table. These families are often already living in deprived areas of the world.

The urgency of funding has been amplified in the aftermath of Typhoon Rai, which struck the Philippines on 16 December, killing at least 400 people as of 31 December and leaving many more without shelter.

A report from NASA said the super typhoon had intensified to a category 5 strength hours before making landfall in the central and southern islands of the Philippines, which are home to an estimated 30 million people.

The Philippines is the largest supplier of both officers and ratings, with an estimated 700,000 deployed on domestic or foreign-flagged vessels, according to the UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport 2021.

“Seafarers have endured a challenging couple of years, often full of fear and uncertainty and far away from loved ones,” Ms Baade said.

“We owe them a great debt and now, more than ever, is the time to join together to support our keyworkers of the sea and make the sea change needed when a crisis hits.”

Grants are made via application and can assist with a range pressing welfare needs, or response to emergency situations such as natural disaster or cases of abandonment.