Seafarers of different faiths and no faith depend on support from port chaplains in order to cope with what is often dangerous work in difficult institutionalised workplace settings, according to recent research from Cardiff University.
As the research notes, onboard the ship religious beliefs and attitudes are kept private but seafarers revealed to the team the ways in which many who do have a faith, create their own set of religious beliefs in order to deal better with living and working conditions.
The study, led by the Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC) and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), investigated the faiths and welfare of seafarers on board two cargo vessels carrying multinational crews.
The researchers spent 6 months in two UK ports studying the work of port chaplains, paid staff and volunteers all of which provide welfare services to seafarers of all faiths in dedicated seafarers’ centres.
They also heard about the extraordinary lengths people delivering these services go to in order to support seafarers despite shortfalls in funding. Many chaplains described how they spent half of their time fundraising in order to deliver services effectively.
Professor Helen Sampson, Director of the Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC) at Cardiff University, explained how:
Seafaring is an extremely dangerous occupation and we found seafarers had experience of feeling very afraid on board a ship at some point in their career. When they’d felt particularly helpless, many had turned to their gods for assistance
In addition, many felt released in some way of observing some of the practices that would indicate piety ashore. According to Ms. Samson, they allowed themselves some freedoms which they felt their god would understand and forgive.
She also added that the research shows the important role port chaplains and others at seafarers’ centres play in offering welfare support.
This is vital and particularly so as seafarers continue to deal with the added anxieties and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic
Moreover, andrew Linington, a Senior Policy Advisor at Nautilus International UK, who was interviewed for the film, said that this research is critically important because it comes at something like a watershed moment for seafarer welfare.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a much greater awareness of psychological needs as the industry has changed dramatically and the complexity of needs along with it. By tapping into those changes, highlighting the need for a restructuring of services and for a reappraisal of what seafarers need by asking the questions of the seafarers themselves, then we have the basis for what could deliver a quantum shift in seafarer welfare
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