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Sailors' Society Newsletter

June 2020 


Good day readers
We trust you are well and coping with lockdown.


Sea Sunday with a difference!


We start off with the good news that despite so many challenges, we will still commemorate Sea Sunday –  but.....virtually!
Just think – instead of reaching only those attending in N-Shed as we usually do, the service will go far and wide on the World Wide Web, and other social media, thereby reaching far more than the 50 permitted according to the lockdown regulations. Isn’t that fantastic? AND... the people we commemorate, the seafarers, will be able to view this special annual international service.

The Chaplains Fraternal which includes Sailors’ Society and the other Missions will combine, with members each making a contribution to the service. Fr Thami Tembe is coordinating the production of the video and Bishop Linda Mandindi has agreed to preach the sermon.

We will keep you informed of all the details via social media and by e-mail.


We are familiar with various methods of distance communication such as Skype, Zoom and the use of mobile phones for meetings and for communicating with family and friends who live in foreign countries.  Virtual Contact has been with us for a long time,  but never before has it been as valuable as it is now, especially to communicate with the thousands of seafarers, stranded on vessels and unable to enter so many ports of the world.   
Sailors’ Society SA has stepped up its virtual support which the organisation has been offering since the lockdown situation
Crisis Response Network
Port, ship, hospital and Mission visits remain under the current Covid19 “Lockdown” conditions and wherever possible, telephonic or Skype communications are used [see last month’s report]. Jessie John, one of our volunteers, has done sterling work with seafarers airlifted by the NSRI in the Entabeni Hospital. 

Chaplains from the Crisis Response Network of the Society have ongoing contact with seafarers/crew on board vessels using Skype, telephone and social media to provide advice, support and arrange practical help for crews. The Society is in constant contact with shipping agents regarding possible steps to take in the situation and also liaise with Wellness at Sea organisations. The Society shares mental health advice for seafarers concerned about the impact of the virus on their health and livelihoods.

Whatsapp Daily Devotions 
Rev van Schalkwyk is preparing daily devotions for the Africa, Mozambique and Brazil chaplains and Sunday Sermons which go out weekly on the World Wide Web to both seafarers and Cruise Line crews.  A friendly voice with an encouraging message and advice is valuable.

Covid 19 column - Website
A special corona virus section of the Sailors’ Society website can be accessed at, with health information, advice for seafarers on how to manage their mental health in light of the pandemic. Information is also available on our website.

Zoom prayer meetings
Zoom prayer meetings continue with Chaplains round the world, to pray for the COVID19 situation and its ramifications for seamen who were unable to leave their ships. 

Ship visits
Chaplains have been authorised to carry out ‘necessary’ visits from 22 June
Repatriation Crisis at Sea
The situation of seafarers worldwide is  dire at the moment. Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), commented in a release  “Globally there are now 400,000 seafarers who are either stranded at sea and have overrun their contracts or are at shore waiting to start their tours of duty."  July 9 is the date for the UK-convened summit on crew changes, which will engage stakeholders from across the world, including maritime, aviation, regulators and politicians. A solution to the crew repatriation crisis cannot come soon enough with news from British charity, the Seafarers Hospital Society, that suicides have become the number one source of deaths onboard ships in recent months.

By way of putting pressure on regulators to find a solution to the crew impasse, the ICS is encouraging ships around the world to sound their horns when in port at 12.00 local time on June 8 "to remind those politicians who are meeting to consider the impact of Covid-19 to classify these unsung heroes of global trade as key workers and to instigate seafarer air-bridges to enable safe travel".

Messages from the chaplains 
“They are amazed that we care about not only them, but their loved ones back home.”
Sailors' Society South Africa has been allocated 80 vessels to contact and Chaplain Steve van Schalkwyk in Cape Town, Dr. Danie Taljard in Port Elizabeth and Durban’s Rev Boet van Schalkwyk has set up a roster of 4 hours each 24/7 in which to contact the vessels on their lists daily. Rev Van Schalkwyk reported that they have made approximately 133 contacts so far.
Let’s now hear from those ‘responders, caregivers, counsellors’ who have made contact with the men and women of the sea.
Rev van Schalkwyk, Co-ordinator of the CRN and Principal Chaplain saidIf you are a crew member struggling at this time, you are not alone. We know this is a particularly distressing and unsettling time for many of you and we are still very much here for you, even if we can’t be with you physically”.

Dr Danie Taljard, Chaplain in the Port of Nqura [Coega]:
‘Tough as nails’
On a Seaspan Skype call to a ship I asked the captain how the officers and crew were doing.  “No problems”, he said, “seafarers are tough as nails”.  Yes, we all have to be tough as nails to survive this global pandemic. 
When I phoned the same ship a month later the captain was busy and I talked to the duty officer. A different picture emerged. The crew were in fact struggling. They were anxious to go home because most of them had their contracts extended because of the pandemic.  In every port they got news that there will be no crew changes. I explained the support available and left an invitation that any crew member has access to counselling over the phone.  I will follow it up every month.
On another occasion a stressed South African seafarer who cannot return home was worried about his wife and two young children back home. She could not cope anymore and he did not have enough money to talk to her for too long.  Emotional support was given to her over the phone and both of them felt relieved. It highlights the fact that our seafarers are suffering even when they look tough as nails from the outside. The support we render through the Skype calls are very much appreciated.  In the port of Coega there is still no access to the crew on the ships."

 Over to Chaplain Steve van Schalkwyk:
 “It has been a joy to reach out to vessels in a totally different way via skype. I have had super interactions and good responses. They are amazed that we care about not only them, but their loved ones back home. One can hear they are worried about the future. I am blessed to be part of this ministry. I find this daily 15 min invaluable. So good to join my fellow chaplains, especially at this time of isolation.  It motivates and encourages. It is so precious.”

A warm welcome to Johan Smith, Projects Manager, Africa and
Brazil to the Board. He takes the place of Sandra Welch.
We trust he will find his membership fulfilling and happy.

[Photo: Johan right, with Rev. Boet van Schalkwyk]
It was with sadness that we said farewell to Sandra Welch formerly Chief Operating Officer and Director of the Programme team of the Sailors’ Society UK. She left at the beginning of May to take up the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Seafarers’ Hospital Society. We are happy that Sandra is still serving the seafarers.

From Barry Haley, Chairman of Sailors’ Society
I would like to wish you well as you move into new territory and a new phase in your life. Thank you for your much appreciated support and your regular visits to us. We will miss having your input in our Board meetings. May God richly bless you as you further commit yourself in His service. Best wishes and kind regards."

Congratulations to Boet and Linda: They have been with the Sailors' Society  for 18 years today  (1st July). We thank them for their dedication and the energy with which they work tirelessly for the Society in Southern Africa. Much has been achieved during their term of office, one of the most important being the establishment of the Crisis Response Network.  May God bless you for many more years filled with joy, good health and blessings.”
(Picture was taken in 2017 when Boet was awarded the South African Gold Medal of Merit of the Military Hospitalier Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem)

The pandemic has resulted in people who are understandably concerned about so much, their health and that of loved ones, their livelihoods, poverty, starvation, education, the economy..... The list goes on.  But there are stories of great resilience where we devised ways of dealing with the situation. Those of us who were able cleaned cupboards and garages, others who had never baked, baked everything from rusks to bread. The ‘mask industry’ exploded!
All Sailors’ Society’s events are on hold at present, but we look to the future with hope and are planning for our Share your Christmas with a Seafarer [SYCS] project. 

Undaunted by the lockdown, the ladies at Flame Lily Park and Cowie’s Hill Lions Club kept themselves busy and continued their knitting for seafarers. Project Leader, Linda van Schalkwyk, received 32 mittens from Elaine de Jager [left] from the Lions Club. Despite the situation, they turned problems into challenges. One of our other regular knitters, Sheila de Villiers, has also provided Sailors' Society with mittens, scarves and beanies, all knitted during lockdown while she watched TV!  Well done ladies, we are so thankful and proud of you. Heartfelt thanks to all for the knitted items. Just think, you will be making life that bit more comfortable for seafarers for whom the pandemic is so destructive. Thank you for reaching out.
On that note, we also say goodbye and God bless to you, dear readers. Take care and stay well.

Like most charity organisations, the tragedy of Covid-19 and lockdown has been detrimental to our income, with no fundraising events being held.  So no matter how small, any donation will be appreciated.

Our banking details: 
International Sailors Society,  Standard Bank, Account no. 051172216  Branch Code 042526
Sailors' Society South Africa
Copyright © 2020 Sailor's Society 

Our Contact details:

POBox 1994
Tel.: 27 31 2660695

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Sailors' Society South Africa · 13 Morewood Crescent · Westville, KZN 3630 · South Africa

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