Port Saint John Supports Seafarers Critical Communication Needs with Pier-side WiFi

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the already extremely isolated life of seafarers. Recently Port Saint John stepped forward to assist seafarers in this unprecedented time of crisis by investing in pier-side WiFi at the West Side terminals.

In the early months of the pandemic, face-to-face services that seafarers around the world rely upon were suspended, and unfortunately this included Saint John Seafarers’ Mission.   As the pandemic wore on a global issue around seafarer repatriation began to evolve. There are estimates of tens of thousands of seafarers who have been working many months beyond their contracted times, often exceeding the maximum allowed by international maritime labour standards.  When this reality was combined with no or very minimal shore leave, a situation that was unacceptable to Port Saint John and the Saint John Seafarers’ Mission arose.

Late last summer government regulations changed, and the Mission was permitted to resume a modified version of their outreach.  At that time, Port Saint John quickly worked with the volunteer Board to create protocols, and a safe environment and process to provide seafarers access to the Mission Centre. Unfortunately, while established with the best intentions, the response from the seafarers for this service was not strong.  Leaving the ship was possibly discouraged due to company procedures, ship-board procedures, or even the seafarers’ concern for the risk associated with encountering COVID-19 ashore.  Port Saint John and the Seafarers’ Mission soon realized another solution was needed.

“Considering the industry-wide crisis facing seafarers, Port Saint John recognized pier-side WiFi was more relevant and important than at any time in the past.  This meant that pier-side WiFi became a top priority, and establishing WiFi became a critical project designed to improve seafarer opportunities for social contact and a lifeline to home, family, and friends while in Port.   We also realized, given the technological, financial, and urgency of need implications, the Mission needed a helping hand to make this a reality at our West Side Terminals,” said Chris Hall, Vice President, Operations & Harbour Master, Port Saint John.

“The needs of visiting seafarers have always been a priority for Port Saint John.  There is a very strong bond between Port Saint John and the Saint John Seafarers’ Mission and Port Saint John contributes to the charity financially, through in-kind contributions, volunteering, and fundraising in a variety of ways.  In the case of the pier-side WiFi project, our Port Chaplain Eric Phinney had flagged this as a long-term goal of the organization.  In this time of need, the call to act on it now came quickly, and Port Saint John responded rapidly.  All parties involved are proud to support the welfare of seafarers who are moving vital trade products across the globe, particularly in this time of crisis,” said Paul Harquail, Chair, Saint John Seafarers’ Mission.

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Media contacts:   Paula Copeland, Director, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility, Port Saint John, M: (506) 650-5288, E: [email protected]

Paul Harquail, Chair, Saint John Seafarers Mission, T:(506) 632-8313, E: [email protected]

This post is also available in: French