Wednesday, August 26, 2020

As India Breaks Unwelcome Virus Records a Helpline for Mariners and Their Families is Launched

Sailors Can Find Help and Support as Country Sees Ever More Cases
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – The country, which now has the third-highest number of coronavirus infections in the world after the US and Brazil, may soon prove to be the worst affected as new cases have proliferated faster there than anywhere for the past three weeks. The crisis has prompted the Sailors Welfare Association, an affiliate of international maritime welfare charity Sailors' Society, to launch a dedicated helpline to support seafarers and their families.

With well over three million cases in the country, and a death toll around 60,000, President Modi says he has a ‘blueprint’ to deliver vaccine to every one of the country’s almost 1.4 billion people, but as yet no such solution exists. Now the new round-the-clock helpline has been set up after the charity saw a marked increase in calls for help from desperate seafarers, many of whom had lost incomes or were anxious and struggling to cope.

Staffed by a team of professional psychologists, chaplains, maritime lawyers and social workers, the confidential helpline is available free-of-charge for seafarers and their families to call and receive advice about any worries they might have. Gavin Lim, Sailors’ Society’s regional manager - Asia, said:

“Seafarers and their family members can call us about anything at all; we’re here to help with whatever they need. We know many seafarers are under huge pressure right now and so we’re really pleased to be able offer this new service. The helpline team is highly skilled and well-placed to provide support and guidance to anyone in need of help.”

It’s estimated that 210,000 of the world’s merchant seafarers come from India. Travel and crew change restrictions have meant that many seafarers are on extended contracts, unsure when they will sign-off or are currently unable to return home. Others have been unable to start contracts due to lockdowns and have had their incomes decimated as a result. Manoj Joy, managing director of Sailors Welfare Association, commented:

“Providing seafarers’ access to front-line support will empower them to help themselves. Our expert team and strong links with local and national welfare services means we are well equipped to advise and, if necessary, sign-post seafarers to additional support in their hour of crisis.”

The helpline team can offer advice in a variety of languages including Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam. Anyone in need of assistance can call the helpline in Mumbai on 022-48972266. All calls to the helpline are strictly confidential.

Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi promises rapid vaccine distribution during his annual address from the balcony of the Red Fort in Delhi earlier this month.