FRIENDS and supporters of the Sydney Bethel Union gathered on Wednesday night (16 November) to celebrate the maritime charity’s 200th anniversary.

SBU traces its history back to 17 November 1822, when Bethel Union first flew its flag on a ship in Sydney Harbour. The charity officially formed in Sydney on 23 December that year.

SBU now provides financial support to the Mission to Seafarers in Sydney, Newcastle, Port Kembla and Eden.

Around 130 guests attended SBU’s bicentenary celebration at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Presentations from NSW Ports, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Port Authority of New South Wales were among the highlights of the evening.

NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas congratulated the Sydney Bethel Union on achieving “a remarkable milestone” of 200 years of service.

“That means 200 years in the seafaring profession as well,” Ms Calfas said.

“It’s certainly an industry that’s seen a lot of change and probably more change to come, but without doubt, it is still as essential as it has always been for our island nation.”

AMSA CEO Mick Kinley spoke about a situation last week which saw bulk carrier Costanza banned from Australian ports for underpaying the crew.

He said abuse of seafarers “has to stop” and highlighted the role welfare providers play in supporting their needs and rights. He noted the challenge of relying on donations to deliver welfare services.

“Seafarers are workers in a global industry; they should not have to depend on charity,” Mr Kinley said.

“No other we would accept that charity was an essential part of how they got what they needed, and it shouldn’t be good enough for the maritime industry either.”

Port Authority of New South Wales CEO Phil Holliday commended SBU’s work and recalled his own experiences with the Mission to Seafarers as a mariner.

“The mission keeps evolving, keeps moving on, keeps supporting and keeps being relevant and important for the people that need it,” he said.