Who They Are
Before, they were famously called Seaman’s Club. But now we are transformingly calling them Seaman’s Center. The word “Club” connotes a negative image and renaming them to Seaman’s Center gives us seamen a clean picture.
To those who are uninitiated, a Seaman’s Center is a place where seamen gather to buy sim/ calling cards, request for a mass, buy some food, chips or souvenirs, connect to internet, play sports (basketball, board games, etc.), read books and newspapers, watch cable TV, drink beverages, ask for counsel, rent a bike, hang out with fellow seamen and a whole lot more!
It is a place exclusive only for seamen and most ports has it. Seamen docking on ports will only have to call the local Seaman’s Center and a free cab service will pick them up. They have various names like Mission to Seafarers, Stella Maris, Seaman’s Mission, among others. They have similar goals and that’s the welfare for every seamen docking in ports all over the world. Seaman’s Club and Seaman’s Center is the same. So wives and husbands at home, please don’t get mad when your lover says they will go to the Seaman’s Club.
Now back to the story. I was scheduled for a check up in a foreign port. I was very confident that the check up would be very easy, swift and hassle-free since I knew the port was top -notched. I head for the clinic at nine in the morning and expected to return before noon. But everything suddenly started to go south.
The taxi dropped me in a hospital. The doctors didn’t want to attend to me because they want me to pay for the check up even after I told them that the company will pay for everything. It was a struggle because they don’t speak English very well. What’s more is that I am sick and they don’t want to heal me! I wanted to call the ship or agent but found myself not having their contact details. I chatted with my crewmate on board and received no replies. With only 10 Euros in my pocket, I didn’t know what to do. I was a bit nervous that I might get stranded there. It was winter time and my money was not even enough to go back to the ship.
I sat and browsed my Facebook. Then I remembered the local Seaman’s Center. I immediately checked their website and Facebook page then called their phone number. A warm female voice welcomed me and I told them my identity, my ship name, company and dilemma. I asked them the contact number of my ship and the agent as well. After a few minutes, they called back with the agent’s phone number. From then, everything went smoothly.
More than Just a Seaman’s Center
I realized the importance of Seaman’s Center then and there. Aside from the entertainments and family-like atmosphere that we have with them at the Center, they offer assistance to seafarers in distress ashore. We just have to tap them. And its easy thru social media.
I also find Seaman’s Center very helpful when it comes to shoreleave. They will give you a map and the precise details that you need when going from point A to B in a particular city. They serve as a sari-sari store for seamen. If you have problems with your family or private life, you can talk to them and ask for advice too. They can also pray over you. When you are stuck in a place with no money, shelter, an empty stomach and fear of being left by your vessel, call the Seaman’s Center at the nearest telephone station and they will gladly help you.
One time, I heard a story that when a seafarer was hospitalized in a foreign port, the Seaman’s Center served as his family visiting him everyday with flowers and warm smiles. That’s already a great morale booster for someone who is confined in a place where English language is not common. Whenever a visitor identifies himself as someone who works in the Seaman’s Center, it instinctively creates a bond between him and the seaman.
You have many reasons to thank every Seaman’s Center that fetches you from ship to the Center. The next time you visit one, thank them for the service they have done for the whole seamen across time and throughout the world.
I thank every Seaman’s Center’s staffs and volunteers all over the world. Thank you for being our family on every shore.
May the winds be on your favor.