PORT Authority of NSW, Port of Newcastle and NSW Ports have joined forces to set up a $2.5-million Seafarer Welfare Fund

The initiative is reportedly a first for Australia. The inaugural five-year funding commitment has been awarded to five organisations (or local centres) responsible for administering welfare services to seafarers visiting NSW.

Port Authority CEO Phil Holliday, NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas and Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody announced the round-one recipients at Mission to Seafarers Sydney’s parliamentary luncheon on Friday.

Those organisations are Stella Maris, MtS Port Kembla, MtS Sydney, MtS Newcastle and Hunterlink. MtS Eden has also benefited from the round of funding.

Captain Holliday said NSW is the only state that has initiated a co-ordinated approach to ensuring visiting crews get the support they need by providing a critical fund to the seafarer charities with proven track records.

“Standing here today alongside my colleagues from Port of Newcastle and NSW Ports I am incredibly proud to be part of an industry that here in NSW, acknowledges what seafarers contribute, every day of the year, to the NSW economy and the lives of everyday Australians,” he said.

“Seafarers work in one of the world’s toughest jobs to bring us the goods we need and to take our exports to the world. We all recognised that by working strategically together through a five-year commitment, we can ensure the care Seafarers receive when visiting NSW is world-class.”

NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas said the new fund would enable seafarer welfare organisations to continue and expand their support offerings and provide greater certainty of ongoing funding.

“Seafarers have an essential role in transporting goods to and from our island nation, often in difficult conditions and away from family for long periods,” Ms Calfas said.

“Supporting them when they are on our shores is our way of showing them that we care about their wellbeing and appreciate them.

“We are proud to be able to join with our colleagues at Port Authority of NSW and Port of Newcastle to fund initiatives to look after seafarer wellbeing when visiting NSW.”

And Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody said the state could “hold its head high” knowing it takes care of its visiting seafarers.

“Seafarers’ needs range from fast access to emergency care to practical support such as access to communication facilities, transportation to and from the ports, hospital visits and sometimes one on one counselling,” Mr Carmody said.

“By joining forces, we have created an efficient funding model where the maritime industry supports its own, which we hope will grow over the years to include contributions from many others.

“It is an efficient model that can sustain or improve key logistical services to seafarers by proven providers, ranging from communication support to transportation and recreation, assessed against clear criteria that demonstrates the positive wellbeing and mental health outcomes for seafarers.”

MtS Sydney CEO Clayton Strong said the new approach would could potentially make NSW a model for other ports.

He said each of the MtS centres are hoping to significantly increase the numbers of seafarers they reach, but funding is still below pre-covid levels.

“This new funding will help to fill that funding vacuum and provide more long-term security for our work,” Mr Strong said.

“Like all charities, we are facing downwards trends in volunteering and donations. We are also battling a spiralling downturn in support from shipping companies which have not restarted their contributions to our seafarer bus transport.

“We thank the port community who have supported us in many ways for many years. We greatly appreciate this new initiative because it will ensure we can continue to provide secure effective, practical support for Seafarers who visit NSW for the long-term.”