Converted bus set for mobile seafarer centre trial in UK port

Port of Southampton

A bus has been transformed into a mobile seafarer centre for hundreds of seafarers to use in a major UK port.

The mobile seafarer centre is being trialled in the Port of Southampton today (Thursday, 17 August 2023). It will be stationary in the Eastern Docks (38/9 berth), where hot and cold drinks, snacks and free WiFi will be available to seafarers throughout the day. There is also a TV on the bus and a place for them to relax.

Southampton-based chaplains from maritime charities Stella Maris, The Mission to Seafarers and Sailors’ Society, will be on hand to provide support and services during the day.

The new initiative, organised and funded by Southampton maritime charity the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), is part of a pilot project to see whether seafarers would welcome a mobile seafarers’ centre within the port.

MNWB is the umbrella charity for the UK Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets, which provides support and co-operation to seafarers, fishers and their dependants.

While there is a small centre in the port, the two main city centres at Queen’s Terrace and East Street have previously closed.

“Seafarer centres have always been a central hub for seafarers to use in between shifts but 61 per cent of major and minor ports do not have a centre,” says Stuart Rivers, chief executive of MNWB.

“Working at sea can be a very lonely and isolated place as some seafarers spend months away from loved ones, with limited access to connectivity. Centres offer them a place to rest, and our new mobile centre offers something different for seafarers to enjoy.

“Throughout the day, it’s imperative we hear the views of seafarers on centres and what they want when they visit ports like Southampton. If there’s anything that can be done to enhance their experience, we want to know about it.”

A 2022 report into the mental health of seafarers found that suicide remains a poorly understood issue in the maritime industry, with suicide likely to be significantly under-reported. The report finds that discussion of mental health at sea is still perceived as a ‘taboo’ topic among seafarers, which is limiting understanding of the issues.

The mobile project vehicle was transformed earlier this year by Southampton & District Transport Heritage Trust, a volunteer-led organisation which preserves and restores former buses and vehicles across the city.

Today’s event runs from 10am-4pm and is being facilitated by ABP Ports, the Statutory and Competent Harbour Authority for Southampton port.

“At ABP Southampton, we are proud to support this important initiative as we welcome seafarers from across the globe daily,” says Tom Dynes, ABP Southampton general manager. “The vessels arriving in Southampton are at sea for days on end, and it is crucial to provide a place for seafarers to go for support during their stay. I am keen to hear the views of the seafarers and look forward to seeing this initiative develop.”

A new Seafarers’ Charter has recently been launched in the UK, which the government says will guarantee fair wages, proper rest periods and suitable training to thousands of seafarers.

Southampton is the UK’s number one vehicle handling port, processing 600,000 vehicles per year, welcoming two million passengers annually. It is home to the UK’s second-largest container terminal.

Spotlight Job

Technical key account manager

Welwyn Garden City (hybrid)

Specialty chemicals company Sika is looking for a technical key account manager to drive business growth and foster strong relationships with key accounts within the marine sector.

Full job description »

Comments are closed.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

Skip to content