Sea Sunday: Stella Maris supporting seafarers in Ukraine

As Sea Sunday is observed this 10 July, the Chief Executive of Stella Maris UK, Martin Foley, speaks about the impact the war in Ukraine is having on the lives of seafarers and how the maritime charity is reaching out to seafarers and fishers, and their families.

By Lydia O’Kane

Ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the lives of seafarers have been significantly impacted by a war which has left death and destruction in its wake.

Hundreds of vessels and many seafarers are unable to escape the fighting in the country and are running perilously low on medical supplies and food.

As the world marks Sea Sunday on 10 July, the Catholic maritime charity Stella Maris is helping Ukrainian seafarers and their families affected by the crisis.

“It's estimated that approximately 15% of the world’s seafarers come from either Ukraine or Russia, and when the war broke out there were a number of Ukrainian seafarers working on vessels overseas that Stella Maris reached out to support at what was clearly a traumatic time for themselves and their families, and we continue to reached out to those seafarers in ports all around the world,” said the CEO of Stella Maris UK, Martin Foley.

“As you can imagine they are desperate for news of what is happening back home. We can help them by providing phone cards, [and] free Wi-Fi which is a lifeline at this time, as it enables them to communicate with family and friends back home; and we’re also working in Ukraine and in particular in Odessa.”

The work of Chaplains

As the war continues, Stella Maris chaplains are working to support the immediate needs of these seafarers and their families

According to Mr Foley, Ukraine national director Fr Alexander is closely involved in providing support to the families of Ukrainian seafarers.

He added that Fr Alexander and his colleague Rostik have been working alongside seafarers, and are being a source of good counsel and support to their families when their loved ones are away at sea.

The Stella Maris CEO explained, “They have contracts, they’re working at sea and those who have completed their contracts find it difficult to get back home to Ukraine or they rendezvous with their families elsewhere in Europe, and we’ve helped to facilitate that in Europe, which has been an important service we have been able to provide for Ukrainian seafarers and their families.”

Mr Foley also highlighted that the charity is currently accommodating 48 refugees at its centre in Kashubia in Poland.

“I visited Kashubia to see for myself the great work that our Stella Maris colleagues are doing there in support of the families of Ukrainian seafarers.”

Listen to the interview

Covid pandemic

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact upon more vulnerable sectors such as fisheries, yet through the hard work of seafarers, supermarket shelves around the world have continued to be stocked during the outbreak.

Asked whether the conditions following the pandemic had improved over the last 12 months, the CEO said he was optimistic.

“Seafarers have, on the whole, been able to access vaccinations, and travel routes have opened up again, with the exception, I would say of China. As listeners may be aware, China has been in lockdown for large portions of the last few months and that continues to impact upon supply chains and obviously on the seafarers who are intimately involved in the smooth running of those supply chains.”

Importance of Sea Sunday

Sea Sunday is an annual day that invites us to give thanks for the lives and work of seafarers, and affords an opportunity to pray for them and their families.

As seafarers recover from the impact of the pandemic, and now feel the effects of the war in Ukraine, Martin Foley is inviting people to use the opportunity that Sea Sunday provides to pray for seafarers, fishers, and their families.

“We are in touch with lots of Ukrainian seafarers who are desperate to work and who want to return to work on ships but are unable to do so for a variety of reasons due to the war. And so, I would invite listeners to pray that those seafarers may be able to return to work as swiftly as possible.”

He also underlined that it was important to pray for peace in Ukraine and pray that a blue corridor can be opened up to and from Ukrainian ports so that supplies can leave Ukraine - “particularly grain supplies which the global economy desperately needs to stave off starvation in many parts of the world.”

10 July 2022, 09:00