All at Sea?
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
by Cat Jenkins of Positive News
Cat Jenkins looks at how digital technology can be used to support seafarers in their faith.
Covid19 has brought the benefits of digital technology into sharp focus over the past year.
Many of us have found it a lifeline in helping us connect to our loved ones. And within the faith community, there’s an explosion in appetite for online devotional support.
One group reliant on technology is the sea-going community – in particular, crews on the freighters that support global trade come what may (Suez blockages aside….). The pandemic has left many unable to end their ‘shifts’ at sea; in September 2020, the International Maritime Organisation reported that global figures for crewmembers stranded at sea stood at some 400,000. In January 2021 there were urgent calls for action in respect of around 200,000 crew involved in global international trade – coining the term ‘the crew change crisis’. These are people who keep supplies, including foodstuffs and fuels, moving between nations; they’re an invisible but crucial front line service.
Such long periods away from home and loved ones takes an inevitable toll on crewmembers’ mental health. It’s acknowledged that crewmember wellbeing is under more scrutiny at present than it has been for many years. One shipping registry, however, has taken an impactful step to support crew onboard vessels under its flag: The Isle of Man’s Shipping Registry is operated by the Manx Government, and caters to some 400 vessels of various sizes. On board are around 10,000 crewmembers, many of whom are Christian.
The Registry already offers many resources to crew via ‘Crew Matters’, the seafarer welfare app provided to all crew on Manx-registered shipping; it developed this in partnership with training company Tapiit Live (https://www.tapiitlive.com/). The crew are generally familiar with, and comfortable using, Crew Matters - it incorporates features they use regularly, such as shipping notices, a self-help library, educational programmes and physical workouts. But the latest innovation has been to livestream mass, for Catholic crewmembers, from a church in Manila.
Whilst faith-based resources are valuable at any time, they’re especially welcome in these Covid-straitened times. Evidence shows that reading the Bible helps increasing numbers of people to feel more hopeful about the future. Initiatives such as this show that technology, wisely used, can help bring God’s word to his people, no matter how far from home they may be.