A new Port Welfare Committee has been established in Durban, South Africa to develop a more collaborative and holistic approach to providing assistance and support to visiting seafarers.
This is part of a worldwide initiative of the International Seafarers’ Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN), funded by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, the UK Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), Seafarers UK and TK Foundation. The aims of the project are to improve the welfare services and support made available to seafarers when they call at different ports around the world. The project is managed by the staff of the MNWB who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in both operating and setting up welfare boards, known by country as ‘National Seafarers’ Welfare Boards’ and locally as ‘Port Welfare Committees’.
Seafarers and fishers visiting the Port of Durban are currently cared for by the ecumenical Durban Seafarers Mission together with the Apostleship of the Sea, Biblia, Christian Seaman’s Organisation, German Seamen’s Mission, Sailors Society and Mission to Seafarers. This care includes fellowship, practical and spiritual support. Services include ship visiting, a seafarers' centre, transport, and provides seafarers with access to shops, the internet and communications with home, together with support during times of need.
The newly formed Durban Port Welfare Committee (DPWC) seeks to supplement and build on the excellent service already provided in the port by the voluntary organisations and will establish a forum where the work of all maritime organisations with a vested interest in seafarers’ welfare can be coordinated. The DPWC will bring together key representatives from the port, maritime community, local and provincial government and non-profit organisations to support and improve seafarers’ welfare facilities and services.
A high-profile launch event was held in Durban on Wednesday 29 May 2019, which included a presentation from the IPWP and addresses by Captain Dennis Mqadi, Transnet Executive Manager for SHE and Regulatory Oversight, and Deputy Mayor Councillor Fawzia Peer. The event was extremely well supported by members of the maritime and local community, church leaders and key players in local and provincial government.
At the launch event, the IPWP Project Manager and MNWB Deputy Chief Executive Sharon Coveney formally inaugurated the DPWC and said:
'The men and women who live and work at sea are often away from their families and friends for many months, working long hours at demanding jobs, landing at foreign countries for only short periods of time. We are delighted that Durban as a major Southern Hemisphere Port has participated in this programme. A content, fit and healthy seafarer is a safer and more productive seafarer.'
An award was presented to the Port of Durban for support of seafarer welfare and the inauguration of the DPWC. Special awards were presented to Thulani Dlamini, Acting Provincial Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, and to the Durban Port Chaplains for their outstanding support to seafarers facing hardship.
'Although we already have much work being done for the welfare of seafarers in the port of Durban, this initiative offers us a unique opportunity to formalise relationships and to establish a collaborative platform to better serve the needs of the 60,000 or so seafarers who visit our port each year,' said Peter Cottrell, Chair of the Durban Seafarers Mission.
Captain Mqadi spoke of the importance of this initiative and pledged the commitment of Transnet National Ports Authority to the care of the many seafarers visiting the Port of Durban.
In her keynote address, Deputy Mayor Councillor Fawzia Peer affirmed the importance of caring for the welfare of seafarers saying that:
'As a caring city, eThekwini recognises the important mission of the newly formed Welfare Committee, and gives the committee its full backing.'
She shared of her vision for the regeneration of the inner city which she said would result in a safer and conducive environment for seafarers when they visit the city.
The IPWP aims to develop a global network of welfare boards and port welfare committees for the benefit of seafarers. Aside from the inauguration of the DPWC, the event also included an IPWP Ambassadors Training Conference with representatives present from ports within South Africa, Namibia and Tanzania who are interested in starting welfare projects within their own ports, together with the regional co-ordinators of six mission organisations who are involved in seafarers' welfare.
The DPWC promises to be of great value to the port, the maritime industry and the country, and will complement the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy of South Africa. As the first port in South Africa to form a Port Welfare Committee, Durban will be leading the way as part of this global initiative to improve the overall wellbeing of seafarers under the auspices of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, to which South Africa is a signatory.
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