Seafarers’ centres play a key role in the provision of ‘front line’ seafarers’ welfare services in many UK ports. Although these facilities fulfil the same overall function of supporting seafarers/fishermen and are all called ‘centres’, each one is unique, much like the ports they are located in. Our UK centres come in all different shapes and sizes; some are manned, some are unmanned and some are both, enabling them to provide a 24/7 service that meets local needs. Most centres depend on local committees/volunteers and transport to operate effectively; the majority are autonomous and a number are registered charities in their own right. It is important that centres are operated and managed locally, and have good governance in place.
As a result of recent MNWB work with the societies on a number of seafarers’ centres, it was clear that the vast majority of centres were experiencing difficulties raising the funds necessary to cover their basic operating costs and needed support of some kind. Indeed, some centres were struggling to survive.
The Board was keen to support seafarers centres where needed. We emphasize the word ‘support’ because it can come in many different forms and from many different organisations. The Board, as an umbrella charity, is all about collaboration and, as such, wanted to create an environment where centre managers/trustees could share best practice and network, something which has not happened in the past. To that end the Board held its first very successful Seafarers’ Centre Conference in Southampton this week. It was well attended with representatives from over 25 seafarers’ centres from across the UK, Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, in addition to staff from the main seafarers’ welfare societies. There were some excellent presentations from a variety of centres highlighting what they do well to what they could do better. There were also a number of workshops facilitated by Solent University in which delegates discussed issues, best practice and the way forward. A full report will be available in due course.