New Port Welfare Committee established in Richards Bay, South Africa

September 02, 2019
Richards Bay PWC Aug 2019
Left to right: Revd Loffie Schoeman (Christian Seamans’s Organisation), Mr Peter Cottrell (representing IPWP), Mr Thami Sithole (TNPA Port Manager Richards Bay), Mr Adrian Lee (SAASOA), Chaplain Mark Classen (Mission to Seaferers)

A new Port Welfare Committee has been established in Richards Bay, South Africa to develop a more collaborative and holistic approach to providing assistance and support to seafarers visiting Richards Bay.

This is part of ISWAN's worldwide initiative, the International Port Welfare Partnership Programme (IPWP), 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 visiting the Port of Richards Bay are currently cared for by the ecumenical Richards Bay Seafarers Mission together with the Apostleship of the Sea, Biblia, Christian Seamen’s Organisation, German Seamen’s Mission, and Mission to Seafarers. This care includes fellowship, practical and spiritual support. Services include ship visiting, a seafarers’ centre, transport, a shop with essential supplies, free WiFi and communications with home, together with support during times of need.

The newly formed Richards Bay Port Welfare Committee (RBPWC) 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 RBPWC 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 Richards Bay on Thursday 29 August 2019, which included a presentation from IPWP Ambassador, Mr Peter Cottrell, who in May this year, worked closely with the IPWP team to help establish the Durban PWC. Addresses by Mr Thami Sithole, Transnet Port Manager, Richards Bay, and Mr Adrian Lee, Chair of the South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents (SAASOA) were also given. The event was extremely well supported by members of the maritime and local community, church leaders and local government.

In opening the event, Mission to Seafarers Chaplain Mark Classen said that 'Piracy, shipwreck, abandonment and separation from loved ones are just a few of the problems merchant seafarers face. Around the world, PWCs support those who have danger every day to keep our global economy afloat. In the Port of Richards Bay alone, we receive approximately 2,100 ocean going vessels and 45,000 seafarers per annum.'

IPWP Ambassador, Mr Peter Cottrell formally inaugurated the RBPWC and said: 'The work of establishing PWCs is profoundly important as we see to provide meaningfully for the care of seafarers visiting our ports'. He went on to say that PWCs 'provide a unique platform where all those involved in seafarers’ welfare can meet regularly, share information, provide mutual support and generally network.'

In his keynote address, Richards Bay Port Manager, Mr Thami Sithole, spoke of the difficulties that seafarers face, stating that seafaring 'is regarded as one of the most stressful of all occupations. They are away from their families and friends for months at a time and work long, hard hours on treacherous waters, sacrificing so that we can have the things we need.' He went on to say that 'we have an obligation to them and we are honoured to part of this noble cause', pledging support from himself and the TNPA team in Richards Bay.

Speaking on behalf of SAASOA, Mr Adrian Lee affirmed the importance of caring for the welfare of seafarers saying that 'the PWC will help to build relationships and bridge gaps. It is a privilege for SAASOA to be part of the PWC and to assist whenever we are needed.'

Awards were presented to the Port of Richards Bay and SAASOA for support of seafarer welfare and the inauguration of the RBPWC.

The IPWP aims to develop a global network of welfare boards and port welfare committees for the benefit of seafarers. The RBPWC 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 second port in South Africa to form a Port Welfare Committee, Richards Bay will join the Port of Durban in 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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