Workers on vessels
in the Port of Vancouver face a ship-bound Christmas this year as COVID-19
restrictions mean they won’t be able come ashore this holiday season.
In a typical year,
the Metro Vancouver branches of the Mission to Seafarers would host Christmas
services for freight workers; however this year due to the pandemic, many of
those workers have been unable to leave their vessels for as many as 10 months
at a time.
“We visit many of
the vessels that come into the port and let them know about the centre, chat
with the guys [and] just get a feel for how things are going on board the
ship,” Seafarers Mission chaplain Rev. Gary Roosma told Stephen Quinn on CBC’s
The Early Edition.
When the pandemic hit, visits to ships were limited to standing at the
top of the gangway
When the pandemic
hit, Roosma said the two centres — located near Vancouver’s Centerm Terminal on
East Waterfront Road and Roberts Bank near Tsawwassen — were forced to close
for four months and visits to ships were limited to standing at the top of the
The pandemic has
also brought other challenges, including how to safely repatriate employees and
how long a worker can stay on board before they have to be granted shore leave,
according to Roosma. He said he recently met a man who had been on a ship for
17 months straight, without a single day off.
With COVID …rules were relaxed for a time
Labour Convention stipulates 11 months is the limit,” Roosma explained,
“however, with COVID … those rules were relaxed for a time,” he said, adding
the situation has become a “bit better in the last few months.”
With many of the
workers still forced to stay on board and the Christmas service cancelled, the
organization’s annual Christmas gift delivery will be extra special this holiday
Seafarers look forward to these gifts; it’s a chance for them to
celebrate and to experience the joy of the Christmas season
Eve] we go out to English Bay [and] into the Inner Harbour [to] deliver gifts
to all the various ships that are out there,” he said. “They look forward to
these gifts … and it’s a chance for them to celebrate and to experience the joy
of the Christmas season.