to Seafarers steering in choppy seas
By N. Dilshath Banu
Men and women who sail the high seas to make a living,
leave behind families for long periods of time and have only the
blue ocean around them for company.
to Seafarers therefore, is a home away from home for them,"
Wing Commander Noel Fernando, the President of the Mission to Seafarers,
Colombo told a news conference recently, adding that this is where
they belong, from the captain right down the line.
known as Mission to Seamen, it became Mission to Seafarers, when
women joined the journeys on the sea. Headquartered in London, any
country that has a seaport boasts of a Mission to Seafarers.
objectives of this organization are to respect and uphold the values,
faiths and cultural norms of seafarers and their families, publicise
the contributions made by this vital group and serve the needs of
the olden days, seafarers would step into the mission in Colombo,
enjoy a glass of beer and purchase simple requirements such as powder
and soap. Two IDD phones at the mission helped seafarers stay in
touch with their families. "Unlike today, when people are using
mobile phones, those days the seafarers had to come to our mission
to contact their families. It was also a source of income for us
in yesteryears," said Wing Commander Fernando.
often find themselves uncertain about what to do or where to go
when they are in trouble. Part of our mission consists of lending
a compassionate ear to them. We handle a broad range of situations
by mobilising the support of volunteer organizations and professionals
specializing in maritime affairs. They help solve problems such
as repatriation, recovering backwages, improving working conditions
and provide support during crises such as when a seafarer goes missing
from his ship or while travelling from home to the port," explains
Wing Commander Fernando.
the Mission to Seafarers in Sri Lanka has undergone many changes.
Where once the organization was by a public road, now the police
have occupied the area for security reasons.
has become a fortress. No one would want to walk in-between police
guards wielding guns. As a result, our funds have dropped because
fewer seafarers visit us. Those days more than 1,000 dropped in
every month but now even fewer than 50 do," he said, adding,
"We don't depend on our headquarters in London. So it's hard
for us to survive."
help the mission come out of a difficult situation, Clarence Welikala
has been appointed the new CEO. Mr. Welikala has served in various
organizations including Unilever (Ceylon) Ltd., looking into security
aspects. He was a volunteer officer of the 2nd Battalion of the
Ceylon Light Infantry from 1957-65.