It’s not your normal club. A Seaman’s Club is a great help for seafarers visiting foreign shores. In fact, it’s their home away from home and an ultimate ally in a place where they may not know anyone or anything.
I heard a story of a seafarer who met an accident on board. He was sent to a hospital on shore for proper medication. With no cell phone, no internet (it happened before the internet was a thing), and none of his crewmates around him, he was truly left alone.
Even though he was well-treated at the hospital, he still felt sad not having anyone to talk to. But there was one person who consistently visited him: a representative from the Seaman’s Club! Even in a foreign land, the Seaman’s Club proved to be his lifeline.
What are Seaman’s Clubs?
Seaman’s Clubs are dedicated establishments that provide various services and support to seafarers visiting foreign ports. These clubs serve as a “home away from home” for seafarers. They offer a range of facilities and amenities to meet their needs and enhance their well-being during their time ashore.
See? Knowing this will hopefully put our wives at ease when we visit any Seaman’s Clubs. The term club has a negative connotation that it automatically pictures blinking lights and girls dancing in bikinis. But this particular type of club is different.
Seaman’s Clubs are typically operated by non-profit organizations, religious groups, or government entities. Their primary objective is to cater to the social, emotional, and practical needs of seafarers while they are away from their ships.
Some of the services provided by Seaman’s Clubs include communication facilities, internet access, accommodation, recreation, cultural exchange programs, legal and financial advice, medical assistance, and social activities.
Now, they are rebranding it to seafarers’ centers, mission to seafarers, seaman’s center, or seafarers’ missions.
How the Nearest Seaman’s Club Can Help You
I’ve been to many seaman’s clubs and their contributions couldn’t be understated. If you feel like you are at a loss in a foreign port, give them a call and they will surely quickly respond. Here are the services and support that these centers provide for seafarers.
Sometimes, we have our own personal problems that we don’t want to share with anyone on board due to privacy reasons. And there are times when we want advice from someone else’s point of view.
Seaman’s centers offer such services for free. They have a trained person for this job that will intently listen and give you advice while keeping your personal information safe.
2. Ship visits
One of their most common activities is ship visits where they go to vessels in port. They often bring reading materials for free and internet sim cards for those interested.
I remember that in some ports, seafarers’ centers exclusively sell iVittamobile sim cards which are built with seafarers in mind.
3. Provide recreational activities
This would be what seaman’s clubs are famous for. They provide recreational facilities for seafarers to enjoy like basketball and football courts, ping pong tables, table soccer, reading materials, pool table, board games, TV rooms, and many others.
It’s a way for seafarers to enjoy their stay there while interacting with the crew from other ships.
4. Seafarer’s transportation
Some centers have shuttle buses or taxis that ply around ports picking up seafarers and transporting them to seaman’s club and back to the vessel. In most cases, these services are free but run on an on-call or scheduled basis.
If you want to make a short escape from the vessel, seafarer’s centers are a perfect choice because of their transportation services.
5. Bar and restaurant
They basically have everything there for your enjoyment in addition to those recreational activities. Most, if not, all seaman’s clubs have bars where you can order various drinks including alcoholic beverages, and a mini restaurant where you can dine in.
It’s not particularly like that of Starbucks but with an internet connection, that’s all you need to complete your stay.
Sometimes, the company finds so many excuses for why they can’t sign you off. And without internet, you can’t ask for help from the right authorities. Calling it with the ship’s phone will also give away your intentions.
One way to do this is to share your problem with the seaman’s center and if you want, they can call the necessary authorities to push the right buttons. The next thing you know, you are at the airport with your luggage.
7. Assistance after abandonment by shipowners
Sadly enough, this type of event happens. There are many entities that can help you with this and one is the Seaman’s Centers.
If for some unfortunate fate you find your ship at the anchorage with months of unpaid wages and never hear from them, they can help you find the right authorities. They may even visit your ship with food, water, bunker, and other necessities.
8. Bullying and harassment
Seaman’s clubs can provide a safe space for seafarers to talk about their experiences of bullying and harassment. This can be helpful for seafarers who feel isolated or alone, and it can also be a place to get support from other seamen who have been through similar experiences.
They are also providing seafarers with information about their rights and options if they experience such treatment on board.
9. Access to communication facilities
Seafarer’s centers have internet and communication facilities where sailors can connect to and call their families at home. If you don’t have a gadget with you, they have their own computers that you can use to reach whoever you want to.
Aside from that, they offer phone services that you can use to call your families while aboard.
10. Provide accommodation
Some facilities have rooms where you can stay for a night or two. I remember when we were in Cebu, when instead of going to an expensive hotel, we made our booking in Stella Maris. A quick show of my seaman’s book took care of the paper works.
11. Disaster assistance
When a ship in Cebu sank claiming many lives, the families of those victims were called and they stayed in Stella Maris. I was surprised that they extend their service to such lengths. And I know this firsthand because when I tried reserving a room, they informed me of the issue. I gladly cooperated and wished they could help more.
12. Assistance when facing contract issues
Sometimes, you find something in your contract that the ship or shipowner is not honoring. You are not sure about it but nevertheless, want to know more about the issue. Going to Seaman’s Club and asking for their help could be useful.
I’m sure they experience similar complaints from other seafolks so they can give you a different light on the issue and how to fix them.
13. Provide a sense of community
Since this facility is an all-exclusive club for seafarers, they provide a welcoming and friendly environment for seamen. They also offer social activities where you can network with fellow seafarers from other countries.
14. Multi-faith support
It’s well-known that seaman centers embrace all faith sand religions that are centered around goodness. Some of them even send priests to ships where they celebrate mass together with the crew.
Whatever your religion, you are always welcome to visit any seafarer’s centers worldwide.
15. Information assistance and coordination
When I was sent to a hospital clinic in Bremen, the ship’s agent was nowhere to be found and nobody around me spoke English. I was deeply worried since the doctor won’ attend to me and I only had a few Euros left.
Since I don’t have the ship’s number, I called the nearest seaman’s club for help. They asked for my name, the ship’s name, and company, and called the ship’s agent on my behalf. The agent arrived after 15 minutes and I am truly grateful for what that seafarer’s center did to help me.
How to Find Your Nearest Seaman’s Club
The easiest way to find the seaman’s club nearest you is to make a quick search in Google or Google Maps. You can use these search terms to find them:
- Seaman’s club near me
- Seaman’s club in the port of _____________.
Basically, that’s it. Or you can check out the Seafarer Centre Directory of Seafarers Help because they got the whole list of the centers worldwide.
Reviews from Seafarers
Here are a few reviews I found in Google Maps from our fellow seamen regarding their experience with Seaman’s Clubs all over the world.
Sorely needed break from life at sea, the place is a blessing for those who can’t venture into the city for whatever reason. Kind and polite hosts at the counter make it all the better. One of them also brought their pet to work which was an added bonus for me.
Seamen’s Club Welcome – Bremerhaven
I did volunteer here last month.
It’s clean and affordable. There is free wifi. There is canteen in the center. You can find all the things you need there. Near the center, there is Robinson Galleria. You will love it. I promise.
Stella Maris Seafarers’ Center – Cebu
Everyone there is nice and understanding. I had a great time with their driver, which is very pleasant to talk to and very polite. They have good WiFi connection and also plenty of games like: Table tennis, Fusball, Billiards etc. Also if you are in need for a drive to the local Shopping Mall, they can arrange it for you and they will also return you to the terminal. All in all, a pleasant experience and I hope I will see them again next time.
The Seamen’s Church Institute International Seafarers’ Center – Port Newark
This is your home away from your home in durban exclusively for seafarers. Free pick up and drop from port of durban and free wifi, snacks and drinks.
DURBAN SEAFARERS MISSION
May the winds be in your favor