Yesterday a seafarer came to our mission and related what had happened over the last few days. He had received word that his mother had passed away in the Philippines. He requested that he be repatriated according to the terms of his contract and the MLC 2006 provisions, “in a timely manner”. The sympathetic captain and an onboard superintendent contacted the company but the response was to wait until they went to New York. Even though NYC is only 2 days sail from Saint John, it could easily be several more days before he could go ashore. Ships entering New York often must wait in the anchorage. He is the youngest male of 11 siblings and they were waiting for him to return or at least know when he would return before they would begin making funeral preparations.
Clearly in his grief he was not able to function on board in a safe and productive manner. At the mission after hearing his story and spending some time in prayer in the chapel we called the regional ITF inspector who was enroute back to Halifax via train. Working together with the inspector we were able to contact the ship, the manning agency, the harbourmaster, the IC Inspectors and in only a few hours obtain the required documents for this man to be relieved from his duties and begin the journey home.
Unfortunately it is not unusual to have to activate such a large network of people just to see that something quite reasonable is done for a seafarer in need. If the company had not responded they may have faced delays that would have cost them much more than flying a man out of Saint John rather than New York. This is what Maritime Ministry does. It stands up for the vulnerable and those in need in the midst of what is sometimes a very heartless and profit driven system.
I was so pleased to get a call from the hotel last evening, for the man, saying that he had his ticket and would be flying out this morning at 05:00 for home.
Thanks to all who helped, especial Karl and the ITF; well done!
Chaplain – Saint John Seafarers Mission