Whilst the Port of Felixstowe deals with container traffic the Port of Ipswich, seven miles up the Orwell River, deals with the smaller bulk carrying ships. Cargoes such as timber, fertiliser, cement and other items make their way to the Port of Ipswich, which can take ships up to 10,000 tonnes.
Unloading a cargo of onions all the way from New Zealand
Ipswich comes under the care of the Felixstowe chaplain. Today we visited a number of ships moored in Ipswich. Because of the nature of the cargo they carry, ships that visit Ipswich tend to have a longer turn around time, compared to the container ships that go to Felixstowe (which are in port between 12 to 24 hours maximum). In contrast some of the ships we visited today in Ipswich had been in port for several days. Certain cargoes - such as wheat or fertiliser, requires fine weather for unloading, so rain can prolong the time some ships stay in port.
The old seafarers centre in Ipswich, due to be replaced later this week with a more modern cabin
It is not possible for seafarers in Ipswich to visit the larger and much better equipped seafarers centre in Felixstowe, so instead there is a small, and rather dilapidated cabin which provides very basic facilities, including a very small chapel, tv, chairs and a computer and internet access. This cabin is due to be replaced this week with a more modern cabin, which should improve facilities for the seafarers in Ipswich. Unlike the centre in Felixstowe which is open from 10am to 10pm, seafarers can gain access to the mission centre in Ipswich 24 hours a day via a special code.
Some ship visits are very brief and can last a matter of a few minutes, and other visits you can be on the ship for quite a long time. The length of a visit depends on many different factors, including how busy the crew are and also the type of welcome you receive when you board a ship. Sometimes when visiting a ship we don't get any further than the gangway, and on other ships we are invited into the mess deck, and can be offered food and drink. Today we had a very good conversation with an Indonesian cook on board one ship. He was a lovely Christian man, who went to his cabin to retrieve his Bible which you could tell was well used, and also his daily Bible notes that he received from a chaplain in another port he had visited. We finished this visit by asking this seafarer if he'd like us to say a short prayer for him which he gladly accepted. Whilst you can go away from some ships wondering what if any impact your visit, occasions such as, remind you why these visits can be really appreciated. You simply never know what may happen when you visit a ship.
As mentioned in yesterday's blog one of the big changes that I have noticed is in the use of technology on board ships, particularly the use of mobile phones. When the chaplain visits a ship he always carries with him SIM cards, and mobile phone top up cards. These are always very popular, and help open up access to the ship where otherwise access may be a bit difficult, although at time the chaplain admitted it could feel as though he was an unpaid rep for the mobile phone company. Amongst the seafarers I have met over the last two days, the length of contract varies between six to ten months at sea. Being constantly on the move, and far away from their homes and families, it is important that seafarers have the means to keep in touch with their loved ones.
Back in Felixstowe I had chance to chat to the Apostleship to the Sea Chaplain, Sister Marian. It was interesting to have the opportunity to talk with her about her experiences of ship visiting, and how seafarers relate differently to her because she is a female - the shipping industry still remains largely male dominated, although we did encounter a female officer yesterday. Sister Marian not only covers the ports of Felixstowe and Ipswich, but also ports stretching up to Lincolnshire.