For the country’s largest city by the sea, Port of Sunderland has always been integral in powering the city’s economy, opening up access to markets across the globe.
It is also the arrival point for seafarers worldwide, providing many with their first experience of the UK. The port is responsible for ensuring these hardy seafarers are safe when they dock and are on the port estate, and when they leave, they do so with a favourable impression of the city.
This year, Port of Sunderland is supporting Seafarers Awareness – a week that celebrates the world of shipping, the seafarers who work in it, and the essential role of our sea ports.
Seafarers Awareness Week is organised and promoted by Seafarers UK – a registered charity which aims to help people in the maritime community, especially merchant seamen, members of the Royal Navy and professional fishermen.
Matthew Hunt, Port of Sunderland Director, said: “Port of Sunderland is better connected and facilitated than ever before, and we continue to play an important role in the city. With more cargo handling projects, improved infrastructure and excellent rail and road links, the port is emerging as a busy industrial space that is buzzing with opportunities.
“As well as our excellent geographical position and amenities, here at Port of Sunderland we are also committed to promoting seafarer awareness and safety. Our safety schemes, team and facilities ensure that seafarers feel both safe and welcome when they dock here, and ensure they have a positive experience in Sunderland.”
With the arrival of The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018, this July, the port is continuing its commitment to seafarer welfare and ensuring the port is as safe as possible for all visitors.
Matthew said: “Safety around The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018 is especially important at the port. Generally, the port estate is closed to the public, but as we prepare to welcome hundreds of thousands of people, we have put in place a range of measures to ensure it is safe and welcoming for the vessels and the people who come to the port and navigate within the Event Area.
“Of course, the Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018 showcase’s the city’s efforts to share Sail Training International’s efforts in promoting sail training to young people.”
The port’s commitment to seafarer safety is clear, thanks to various schemes and facilities that are available all year around.
Neil Mearns, Marine Services Manager and Port Facility Security Officer, said: “The Port of Sunderland and city interact with initiatives to support professional mariners and there are many ways the port supports seafarers. These include representation on the Tyne Port Welfare Committee, an integral and essential part of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and the strong ties that are maintained with South Shields Marine School, globally recognised as a centre of excellence for marine education and training.”
Port of Sunderland is also home to the Stella Maris Centre, a drop-in facility owned by Sunderland City Council and the port. It was set up and is run by Sister Mary Scholastica in the name of the Apostleship of the Sea to offer support to seafarers.
“When I started my work at the port I was reacting to a need,” said Sister Scholastica. “I had realised that seafarers were arriving in a strange country, often not knowing the language and with very little money. There was a need for Stella Maris.
“We provide food, internet, and phone connection so they have access to the essentials. Despite difference in age, vocation, religion and origin, it is always lovely to welcome the seafarers, form friendships and make wonderful memories in this city.”
With an expanding portfolio, the port continues to maintain its reputation for delivering a high-quality service to its businesses and clients – and with its commitment to seafarers and safety, it continues to establish itself as a welcoming place for seafarers across the globe.
Councillor Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The port plays an essential role in our city, and not just in terms of economy and trade. Its dedication to seafarer welfare means it is also a great ambassador for the city – a friendly entrance point to Sunderland.
“With the hosting of The Tall Ships Races Sunderland 2018, an attraction that is predicted to attract more than a million and a half tourists to Sunderland, it is important that our visitors on both land and sea enjoy their experience here – and the port’s commitment to Seafarer Awareness will play a major role in delivering this.”