Friday, 2 October 2009

In the recession, an Angel of Mercy

Fujairah, UAE, Sept. 20 The M/V Flying Angel is providing mariners, including stranded seafarers, at this second largest bunker anchorage in the world with great succour and support. Fujairah has 100 to 150 ships anchored off shore at any given time; every year, over 10,000 ships and over 200,000 seafarers drop anchor here.

Back in 2007, Rev. Miller of the charity ‘Angel Appeal’ realised that these seafarers were isolated, lonely, depressed and with no contact with family and friends when they visited Fujairah. Anchorage was too far and it was too expensive for a boat to send crew ashore. Other leisure and communication facilities were nonexistent at anchorage. His brainchild: a seafarer’s support boat.

The M/V Flying Angel was launched February 28, 2007 by HRH Prince Charles. The first Seafarers Support Boat of its kind in the world, it was the winner of Seatrade’s ‘Investment in People’ Global Award 2008. The boat services on average of 75 seafarers a day. Operating daily, she is equipped with email and telephone facilities, a small shop selling essential items, a Welfare Officer and book and DVD libraries. Not surprisingly, the email and telephone facilities are the most popular.

That is not all. Today, the situation is worse in the recession, which has resulted in many seafarers, most of them Filipinos, being stranded in the UAE. Miller finds that many crew visited by the “Flying Angel" have not been paid for months; he says that he has even visited a crew that has not been paid for four years! The charity provides food and essential items to these seafarers daily. “In such cases we sometimes have to get their passports back from their employers and buy them a plane ticket home," Miller says, disclosing that more than ten percent of ships in the region were in a similar position. “When they are cutting budgets, oftentimes the first thing to go is usually the salary of the crew," he rues.

Some of the Filipino beneficiaries are crewmembers of the “Heredia Sea," whose Filipino chief engineer committed suicide last year. A report in the Khaleej Times says that “Angel Appeal," has helped many seamen whose vessels are stranded off Fujairah.
“It is an unnatural situation, where they are trapped onboard a ship with nothing to do and miles from their families. In many cases, people become lonely and depressed. It can be torture for them," says the report. Rev Miller empathises with the traumatised mariners: “Emotional exchanges on webcam or on the phone are commonplace on board the Angel, as sailors exchange precious words of consolation with their wives and children," he says.

“When you become a seaman, you sacrifice your freedom for your family," says Captain Rene Maloto in the Khaleej Times, adding that the “Flying Angel" plays a vital role in boosting crew morale on his ship.



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