This interview with the Revd Simon Davies was published in FAN (Flying Angel News), Spring 2013, Issue 8
Simon works at the Felixstowe Seafarers' Centre on the UK's east coast. Felixstowe is one of the UK's busiest ports, and Simon's centre welcomes over 1,000 seafarers a month.
What's the port of Felixstowe like?
Felixstowe handles approximately 40% of the UK's container trade, which means that it deals with a lot of ships, from smaller feeder ships right up to the very larger container carriers.
What facilities does your centre have?
We've got internet-enabled computers and telephones, so people can contact their loved ones. We also offer leisure facilities, including a bar, a TV and a pool table. For those who need time to reflect, we have a chapel and a library too. Over in Ipswich and Harwich, we have some seafarers' cabins, which have free internet facilities and are accessible 24 hours a day.
What services do seafarers use most?
Internet provision is without doubt the most popular service, through our Wi-Fi service or the computers. Seafarers often use Facebook, Skype and email to keep in touch with their families. Our shop, which stocks a range of souvenirs and treats, is also pretty popular as I'm sure you can imagine!
What goes on during a typical day?
A good deal of my time is spent visiting ships. Because of short turn-around times in port, many seafarers don't have the opportunity to leave the vessel to visit the seafarers' centre, so I look out for their welfare and find out what their needs are.
What problems do seafarers most frequently come to you with?
Many seafarers want help and advice with practical issues, such as how to get in touch with their families, but when they're given an opportunity, they will often speak of the challenges of their lives at sea. They talk about the effects that long periods of separation from their families have on their relationships, and that distance causes stress, strain and unhappiness.
They also talk about work issues. Sometimes they want help concerning an unfair employment contract, which may have left them unpaid or kept on beyond their original term. Sometimes they speak of tensions on board within the crew. These issues are often considered 'unsafe', so they appreciate being able to share their concerns with someone who is neutral, and outside the ship's hierarchy, who can help them.
What part of your work do you enjoy the most?
Helping seafarers in practical ways is very satisfying for me. Some ships make regular visits to our ports, and in these cases it is possible to build up better relationships with seafarers, which has proven to be mutually enriching.