Mission to Seafarers brings Christmas joy to workers stuck on ships at anchor in Metro Vancouver

2020-12-28 17:22:59 Sea Farers News

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 gangway.

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

“The Maritime 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 season.

Seafarers look forward to these gifts; it’s a chance for them to celebrate and to experience the joy of the Christmas season

“[On Christmas 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.

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