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 a better picture.
What can you do in a Seaman’s Center?
To the uninitiated, a Seaman’s Center is a place where seamen gather to buy sim/ calling cards, request for a mass, and buy some food, chips, or souvenirs.
For us who are away from home, the Seaman’s Center acts as one of our solaces. They help us connect to the internet, enable us to play sports (basketball, board games, etc.), and read books and newspapers.
But there’s much more. In there, we can watch cable TV, drink beverages, rent a bike and hang out with fellow seamen. If you have problems you like to share, they are also a listening ear who provide counsel.
It is a place exclusive only for seamen and many ports have it. Seafarers docking on ports need only 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, and Seaman’s Mission, among others. However, they have similar goals and that’s the welfare of every seamen docking in ports all over the world.
A Seaman’s Club and Seaman’s Center are the same. So wives and husbands at home, please don’t get mad when your lover says he will go to the Seaman’s Club.
Now back to the story. I was scheduled for a check-up in a foreign port. It was a top-notched place so I was very confident that the check-up would be very easy, swift, and hassle-free.
I head for the clinic at nine in the morning and I expected to return before noon. But everything suddenly started to go south.
The taxi dropped me at a hospital. I went inside but the doctors didn’t attend to me because they want me to pay for the check-up. I told them that the company will pay for everything and showed them some documents.
They didn’t budge.
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.
Overconfidence made me not get them in the first place.
So I chatted with my crewmate on board but 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 and 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 for 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 smooth.
More than Just a Seaman’s Center
I realized the importance of Seaman’s Center then and there. Aside from the entertainment 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. With today’s technology, it’s easy thru social media.
I also find Seaman’s Centers very helpful for shore leave. They will give you a map and the precise details that you need when going from point A to B in a particular city.
Additionally, 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 for you.
When you are stuck in a place with no money, shelter, with 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 read a story of a seafarer hospitalized in a foreign port. The Seaman’s Center served as his family visiting him every day with flowers and warm smiles. That’s already a great morale booster for someone who is confined in a place where the 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.
On one of my vacations, I was planning to stay a few days in Cebu. I called Stella Maris, and asked for a reservation. They confirmed my booking and I was happy.
A day before my trip, they canceled my reservation. There was a ship that had sunk near the area and they were housing the survivors. I was touched that they are helping people in distress.
God bless them.
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 are doing for the whole seamen community.
I thank every Seaman’s Center’s staff and volunteers. Thank you for being our family on every shore.
May the winds be in your favor.