Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Visiting those who go down the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters.

the new mega cranes

I have spent the day with the Liverpool Seafarers' Centre which is located in our borough at Waterloo where they provide recreational facilities for seafarers including access to the internet, subsidised international SIM cards, a library, bar, café, TV lounge and a chaplaincy.
The organisation has been on the go since 1856 and brings together the two main church organisations providing support to those who go down the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters.

Unloading cocoa
The centre is well used and I met sailors from several countries including India and the Philippines. I was then taken to visit a couple of ships. The first one was carrying a cargo of cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast which was being unloaded. The Master of the ship showed us round and I was accompanied by Geoff Rafferty who is a trustee of the centre. In a previous life he was a pilot on the River Mersey and I met him first when the City of Liverpool conferred on the Pilots Association the Freedom of the city

We can sometimes forget how important merchant shipping is to us. 95% of the UK's imports arrive by sea. The new Port of Liverpool, also in Sefton, is taking shape. I was present earlier this year at the new Port of Liverpool Academy which is an excellent initiative of Hugh Baird college in Bootle to prepare local people for the new jobs that will come with the development. At present there is nowhere in the north that the new large container ships can dock. The furtherest north port for them is Felixstowe on the east coast. The new mega cranes, pictured at the top of this posting, were floated across from China and are already a landmark that can be seen as far north as Formby. As yet the new facility is not open for business. Many local people are concerned about the logistics of shifting the cargo from the port to a rail head or the motorway. It strikes me it is a job for a railway.  Of course the ships sail out of Liverpool with cargo and we saw rows of new Jaguar cars lined up waiting to go to China and the USA. The biggest export would appear to be waste metal which finds its way to China, the USA and Turkey.

The second ship I visited was a Greek owned and Bahamas registered vessel carrying grain from Australia. It had been 45 days at sea and many of the crew were finishing their contract in Liverpool and being flown home. The Master Dubovchenko Ievgen from Ukraine  showed us round. He was also being visited by representatives of the owners who had made a day trip up to the NW to see the ship. This being a Greek owned ship there was a Icon of St Nicholas which, I learned, is always hung on the bridge in Greek ships.

The Chief Engineer them took us below to the Engine room where we met more of the crew. The approaching Hurricane Doris may well hold this ship up in dock as it is not possible to unload the grain whilst it is raining. This may not please the owners but the crew were looking forward to visiting the city. Apparently one of the popular destinations is the large 24 hour supermarkets.

Merchant shipping is central to our economy. We are a trading nation. There are no doubt those who are keen to build walls but that is not in our interest. As the Master of the first ship I visited (which was crewed by people from Russia, Ukraine and the Philippines) 'we are all sailors here, citizens of the world. '

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