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Maritime Charity Shed Light on Reality of Challenges Faced by Seafarers in BBC Podcasts

21st May 2024
Seafarers Life: John Wilson, Chief Executive of Liverpool Seafarers Centre, a charity dedicated to supporting seafarers, was approached by the BBC to explore the lives of seafarers. This led to thought-provoking podcasts, titled
Seafarers Life: John Wilson, Chief Executive of Liverpool Seafarers Centre, a charity dedicated to supporting seafarers, was approached by the BBC to explore the lives of seafarers. This led to thought-provoking podcasts, titled "The Food Chain, Hungry at Sea" and "Corruption in Port," which shed light on the challenges and realities of life faced by seafarers on board merchant vessels. Credit: Liverpool-Seafarers-Centre/facebook

A prominent maritime charity organisation, Liverpool Seafarers Centre, supporting 50,000 seafarers each year at the port in north-west England, has recently been featured by the BBC with thought-provoking podcasts.

The two podcasts, titled “The Food Chain, Hungry at Sea” and “Corruption in Port” (click links below) shed light on the realities and challenges of life faced by seafarers working on board merchant vessels.

Both podcasts provide an insightful and in-depth look into the maritime industry and the difficult situations that seafarers find themselves in, often through no fault of their own. These experiences can have detrimental effects on the individuals involved.

The chief executive of Liverpool Seafarers Centre, John Wilson, revealed that the organisation was approached several months ago by a BBC Producer who wanted to explore the lives of seafarers. Always up for a challenge, the centre agreed to participate. It soon became clear that the focus of the program was on crew welfare, particularly regarding food and the conditions on modern merchant vessels.

The BBC producers wanted to witness first-hand the work carried out by the Liverpool Seafarers Centre and the support they provide to seafarers on a daily basis. During their visit, they had the opportunity to interview John, and Kinga Davies, Deputy Manager of the centre. They also spoke with seafarers who were visiting the centre at the time. Additionally, the producers took a tour of the bustling port of Liverpool to gain a better understanding of the maritime industry.

Liverpool Seafarers Centre provided first hand insights into the challenges of crew welfare, particularly regarding food. Some of the information shared was hearsay and not witnessed in North European ports.

The BBC produced a second podcast titled “Corruption at Port.” Although this topic may not be highly relevant to North European ports, it is a harsh reality in other parts of the world. Some port organisations in various regions demand ransoms and make requests for food, cigarettes and or cash from the ships safe. Failure to comply can result in vessel delays, leading to significant consequences for the captain, charterer, and ship owner. These delays can incur costly financial losses and damage the reputations of all parties involved. Consequently, crew members often feel anxious when informed that their vessel may pass through war-torn areas or visit ports known for corruption.

John Wilson said: “We have encountered ships in port that face genuine food shortages due to corruption that takes place in other ports, often targeting their food supplies. Fortunately, thanks to the generous contributions from our local community in Liverpool and beyond, our Ship Welfare visitors are able to get on board and provide food parcels to ensure that the crew receives the sustenance they require. Additionally, small acts of kindness, like offering a simple chocolate bar, can have a profound impact on lifting someone’s spirits.”

In expressing his gratitude, the Chief Executive of the Liverpool Seafarers Centre went on to thank the BBC World Service for producing the two podcasts. He emphasised the importance of raising awareness and giving a voice to the seafarers who navigate the world’s oceans, carrying 90% of global trade and 95% of UK trade.

He added: “Seafarers are the real unsung heroes of the maritime industry. Their tireless efforts ensure that the world’s hunger for the latest gadgets, essential goods, and food supplies is satisfied. We’d like to thank the BBC World Service for bringing attention to the vital role played by seafarers and the challenges they face.”

To listen to both the BBC Podcasts, click the links below.

BBC Podcast: Hungry at Sea – click here.

BBC Podcast: Corruption at Port – click here.

Published in Ports & Shipping
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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