The port of Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe. In 2015 about 14000 seagoing ships came into the port. The Reverend Marc Schippers (ChLJ) has served since 2002 as port chaplain in Antwerp on behalf of the Sailors’ Society and the United Protestant Church in Belgium.

Seafarers’ life can be hard. Many seafarers come from developing countries. Often they serve eight months or more on board. After a couple of months’ leave they go to sea again as they consider it the only way to properly support their families. Loneliness and homesickness are common problems. Adjusting to family life and then readjusting to working life on board is not always easy.

Seafarers’ life can be dangerous. Time is money so the vessel has to move fast. Fatigue is a big problem. Cargo and mooring operations, if not conducted well, may lead to serious, even fatal, accidents. Exploitation, delayed salaries and bullying occur regularly. Piracy remains a threat to vessels in several maritime passageways.

During the current pandemic, many ships are quarantined in port for long periods, leading to even greater stress for the seafarers, who are unable to rework or to return home during this time.

The seamen’s missions and their chaplains are doing their best to take care of seafarers’ well-being, practically (e.g. by providing free transport and communication facilities) and spiritually (e.g. by organising worship services and providing a listening ear to the concerns and worries of seafarers).

CB Login