And the winner was…

Four of the six Seafarers
At the Stadium!

Aberdeen!! Yes, they won against Ross County – but only just!! It was a dour game, though the lads off the Malaviya Seven seemed to enjoy their time at Pittodrie!

Two weeks later it would be the other half of the crew that would be going.

A happy crew!

So I took the other members of the crew to the Hearts match with Aberdeen and they really enjoyed the match which Aberdeen won 2-0. Perhaps they could become a lucky mascot? Rahul commented after the game, “I saw a free football match; saw two goals being scored and as a bonus – a boxing match too!” (He was referring to the ‘altercation’ between the Aberdeen and hearts players during the match!!)

The crew continue to wait for news  – hoping that  they may get paid… but it has been a long time and progress is painfully slow for them. The boredom coupled with the uncertainty is definitely having quite an impact on the crew morale. Thankfully, Aberdeen Seafarers Centre has been open for them to use and we have done our best to support them through this long debacle. One officer and one engineer has been onboard since April 2016 – getting very close to a year now. That is more than the Filipino crews currently do! It’s not right.

We go on supporting them and asking God for a breakthrough…  the ship was finally arrested by the crew on the 28th March. This should move things along, but as ever, it will take time and we remain here ready and willing to support our friends onboard.

Notices are not very interesting…

I had a most enjoyable evening with the Kinellar SWI ladies. I received some woolly hats for seafarers and I think they enjoyed my talk.

I also have spoken at other meetings and I am happy to come to your group and share about the vital work we do to support all seafarers who visit Aberdeen. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me, although I am fairly well booked up this year! 

Then we had a calamity at the Seafarers Centre… a radiator fell off the wall in the Computer room at 0645 – that was when the burglar alarm went off. Gulf have a contract with Chubb and they should call me when this happens – they didn’t and so it wasn’t until midday that it was discovered – I had chosen that day to go straight to port and do ship visits!

As you can see, there was quite a bit of damage from the water that flowed for 4 hours… down into our book store! 

The computer room was out of action for a week, but our wi-fi wasn’t affected! A massive thanks to our volunteers who cleaned up and to GulfMark for getting repairs done so quickly, but a big thumbs down to Chubb for their failure to fulfil their contract!

As port chaplain, I have made many contacts over the years and I am very proud to say that I am part of the RNLI as the crew Chaplain. I have had a great time with them and although some have been sad occasions, I do enjoy getting along to their training sessions – keeping my sea legs in action and even scrubbing out the deck of the boat house! Yes, I muck in too!

However, it was wonderful to be part of the special evening at the Town House when the Lord Provost George Adam presented several awards to those who have helped keep the Aberdeen Lifeboat in operation. None more so than Bec Allen who has done so much over so many years and is a great ‘behind the scenes’ worker for the RNLI. Thanks for letting me be a small part of this.

Back to the Malaviya Seven… 

In ASDA getting Kitted out!

I invited four crew to join me at the Annual Nautical Institutes Dinner Dance and of course, being a black tie event, this presented them with a problem… what to wear? 

A visit to ASDA and we soon had them kited out with everything the needed except for bow ties – these were kindly donated by Captain Robbie Middleton out of his large collection – another souvenir for the boys! 

James Bond – eat your heart out!!

They scrubbed up well and looked the part! As you can see from the picture. It was a battle to get them to accept just one offer of many to buy them a drink – and they eventually settled for an orange drink.

Happy times!

Furthermore, the bosun won one of the raffle prizes, but there is no prize for guessing the contents! 

I think it is safe to say that they all enjoyed themselves! 

The latest is that whilst the crew have now ‘arrested the vessel,’ the legal ramifications take time! It has been a long, long haul for them and I am saddened to see how they have been treated by many – however, Aberdeen Seafarers Centre and the AoS chaplain have worked together to help maintain the crew morale through this difficult ‘passage’ for them and we continue to take them on outings and give what financial support we can.

They have become regulars at the Seafarers Centre and we will miss them when they eventually go home, yet we will be delighted to see their ordeal come to an end and their being reunited with family and loved ones. They have made many, many friends here and offers of holidays in India have been plentiful. Some have said that they hope to bring family back to Aberdeen to see the wonderful people who have supported them through these many months stuck in port with no pay. A warm welcome awaits them anytime from all at the Aberdeen Seafarers Centre. Well done to all who are involved in supporting these stranded seafarers.

They may not be going home yet, but it has taken a step forward at last. Happier times are ahead. 

We have seen busy times at the seafarers Centre. Plenty of visitors using the facilities with numbers up in January and February compared with the same months last year. This encourages us to continue to serve the crews of vessels that visit Aberdeen and we look forward to all that awaits us in the coming months and years! 

Despite assurances of the Filipino Seafarers working out of Aberdeen with OSM, they continue to be overcharged tax by their employer in Norway. We have several requests every week from various crew members over the past year who are unhappy that they are losing over 30% of their whole wages and OSM are not giving them any personal allowance. They do say that they will repay them, but it would seem that they are being very slow to sort this out. Hopefully after April 5th, they can get the money back to the seafarers. 

Sadly, we had a death on a vessel and we were asked by the company if they could use the Seafarers Centre for their debrief. It was a Saturday, but we opened up at 1000 until 2200 and gave the lads somewhere familiar to relax and come to terms with their loss – rather than an impersonal hotel room or worse, the crew mess! This worked well and the donation from the company, whilst gratefully received, was totally unexpected. This is part of our ministry to seafarers!

Some folks have said that only the foreign crew use the Seafarers Centre. Whilst the majority of users are indeed foreign crew, we do get a fair number of British seafarers as well. Recently we have had the opportunity to help one chap in particular – he was looking for a job, so we helped him update his CV and gave a few other pointers, enabled him to access the internet and print of copies of his certificates and most importantly, give hope. Having been made redundant (through no fault of his own) twice, he is struggling with finding work. Dean is a really enthusiastic seafarer and is keen to get back to sea. We have had many chats and he has begun to ask all sorts of questions about life, faith and God. Whilst we do not seek to convert seafarers, those who show an interest are gently given a few pointers in the right direction! He even considered doing a 10 month voluntary stint on Mercy Ships in Africa (https://www.mercyships.org.uk/) until he found out that it would cost him the best part of £10,000 – ouch! He was willing to work without pay for board and keep, but not to pay for himself to work! 

We are grateful to those companies who continue to support us financially. As a registered charity, we do depend on the generosity of individuals, Churches and businesses and if you would like to support the vital work we do, please do get in touch with me.

Those who are not in a position to give financially can support us in other ways. One person is helping to edit some videos; another is helping to clean up the car park; of course many continue to knit woolly hats for seafarers; still others donate warm clothes for the seafarers and the list goes on… so please do get in touch with me if you would like to help.

One final request! We do need more volunteers to man the seafarers center. We have increased our opening hours and this has meant that there are many gaps in the rota to staff the centre. We are open Monday through Friday, 1300-1500; and every evening between 1800 and 2200. There is a secure car park at the rear of the building and we are a short walk from Union Square bus and rail stations! Volunteering is open to all, irrespective of race or religion and the only prerequisite is that you enjoy meeting seafarers with a warm welcome and a happy smile! Again, for more details, do get in touch.

Well I have gone on for too long and I’ve missed out lots of things for sure, but in the business of life, there just never seems to be enough time these days! Good job I love what I do! Haha! 

Have a great day!

Blessings,

Howard ><>

 

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