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New Seafarers Welfare Centre Opens At Port Nelson

Nelson’s Mission to Seafarers held an opening ceremony for the new Seafarers Centre at Port Nelson. The Centre is designed to provide a safe haven for seafarers visiting Port Nelson, who can seek support for advocacy, currency exchange, and wellbeing. The opening ceremony was attended by committee members of the Port Nelson Welfare Committee, including Mission to Seafarers, Port Nelson, Nelson City Council, local Government, and shipping agencies. Also in attendance were Reverend Lance Lukin, Archdeacon Harvey Ruru and Reverend Steve Jordan, who blessed the centre.

Over 740 vessels visit Port Nelson annually, with many seafarers on board with an average contract of eight months. The Mission to Seafarers was established in New Zealand in 1898 and has been active in Nelson since the 1960s. According to industry research, 60% of all seafarers experience mental health issues due to isolation and long periods away from home and families.

Pete Akuhata, Mission to Seafarer’s Chaplain, shared that within the last 12 months, the Mission has visited 320 vessels and has reached over 2000 seafarers face to face. “This industry has the highest industrial suicide rate in the world and mental health welfare checks are a major part of our work. We provide counselling support, online resources, and wrap-around support at other ports. If the risk is too high, crew can often be flown home for more clinical support.

“Besides providing mental health support, we also offer important information to seafarers while they visit Nelson. We provide transport to places of worship such as the local Muslim centre, the Nelson Cathedral, and Catholic Church so seafarers can pray and access mass or sacrament. We also transport crew to local supermarkets and provide free sim cards and maps so they can navigate Nelson. We can also deliver shopping orders to the gangway for crew unable to come ashore due to work or time restrictions.”

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Hugh Morrison, Port Nelson’s CEO, shared that the new centre is critical for supporting seafarer's welfare. "Seafarers have been hit hard over the last few years with COVID-19, which has made it difficult for crews to take shore leave and have limited access to organisations like Mission to Seafarers for support and advocacy."

Since 2020, Port Nelson has provided seafarers free wifi access, ensuring they can contact their loved ones while visiting the region. Hugh reiterated that the new Centre is part of the Port’s continuation of support for seafarers and for the Mission to Seafarers, who contribute to the welfare of maritime workers.

The Seafarer’s Centre was funded by Port Nelson and Mission to Seafarers New Zealand.

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