The Mission to Seafarers joined forces with the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), launching the online "Chat to a Chaplain" messenger service, and providing remote support both for seafarers and their families wishing to speak to a chaplain during these unprecedented times.

The Mission is working to provide a service which is as effective as possible in these difficult times. However, these are severely restricted with almost all 121 Flying Angel Centres closed, together with transport services.

However, the Mission continues its ship visits, where possible, but only as far as the gangway and with the highest provision given to hygiene and distancing.

It is highlighted that restrictions and limitations, amid the protection of seafarers due to the COVID-19 challenges, leave them particularly isolated, less able to support and communicate with their families. All at a time when seafarers are facing very significant wider challenges in addition to immense worry about their families back home.

Therefore, the newly launched platform provides the holistic and spiritual support services that port chaplaincy teams are known for. The portals available The Mission’s and ICMA’s Facebook pages, and on www.missiontoseafarers.org and www.icma.as, are staffed 24/7 by chaplains across the world who will be able to provide free, confidential support to seafarers and their families.

The service will offer seafarers the chance to access: One-to-one counselling; Advice and signposting on issues to do with COVID-19, concerns over the extension of contracts and repatriation; Family support and referral to the MtS Family Network in the Philippines; and Spiritual support.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General for The Mission to Seafarers and Chairman of ICMA, commented:

Providing a digital alternative to the usual support networks and channels is essential to enhancing remote welfare services, particularly where WiFi is available, to help ensure seafarers are supported during these uniquely challenging times.