Covid-19: Who does the shopping for stranded Lyttelton seafarers?

Sailors stuck on ships are giving the Lyttelton Seafarers’ Centre about $10,000 each month to...
Sailors stuck on ships are giving the Lyttelton Seafarers’ Centre about $10,000 each month to shop for them. Photo: Supplied
The new Uber Eats. That is how Lyttelton Seafarers’ Centre chaplain Reverend John McLister describes the centre, which is delivering up to $10,000 of groceries and personal items to sailors stuck on ships in the port each month.

All fully vaccinated and wearing personal protective equipment, McLister and his helpers provide the ships with wi-fi and SIM cards, assisting the seafarers to contact friends and family back home.

Last month, they visited 45 stores to meet the shopping requests.

Common personal items they buy include toothpaste, vitamins and supplements, and souvenirs.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
The most popular items are Whitaker's and Cadbury chocolate bars.

Another regular request is for PlayStations and video games.

The most oddball request was for a portable swimming pool because the seafarers were bored, said McLister.

The seafarers’ centre does not buy alcohol or cigarettes.

However, it does stop off for takeaway orders such as pizza.

"They just want a treat,” said McLister.

Before Covid-19, seafarers would come ashore for rest and recuperation.

However, border controls now restrict entry for most sailors.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Those who are exempt from the border restriction have been on a boat that has taken 14 days to get to New Zealand.

Once here, they are given a Covid-19 test and if that comes back all clear, they can disembark.

Due to border closures around the world, McLister said many seafarers have been stuck on ships for up to 12 months.

"Most seafarers are unable to come off their boats and all the things they used to do, they are no longer able to (do),” said McLister.

That is where the seafarers’ centre comes in.

In June, there were 61 foreign ships that docked at port, and the seafarers’ centre visited those ships 84 different times.

From June 2020 to April this year, more than $100,000 was received for shopping requests, and the 638 ships in port during that period were visited 888 times by the seafarers’ centre.

McLister also offers pastoral care for the seafarers, chatting about problems and concerns.

In May 2020, the Government determined seafarers’ welfare supporters, such as chaplains, were essential workers.

Lyttelton was the first port where a seafarers’ centre was able to visit ships.

"Lyttelton became a model for other New Zealand ports,” said McLister.

"The Government realised we needed funding, which was a big win.”

Reverend John McLister. Photo: Supplied
Reverend John McLister. Photo: Supplied
McLister is proud of the work the seafarers’ centre does.

"These people keep New Zealand alive.

"Giving [the seafarers] a warm welcome can help to alleviate some of the immense mental pressure they face.”

The efforts are greatly appreciated by those on the ships.

M.V Erisort captain C.M. Ranaweera wrote to the New Zealand seafarers’ centres to express his and his crews’ gratitude for them "going that extra mile".

"Lyttelton is a port town, founded on people who live and work at sea.

"Most Lyttelton people know someone in the past or present who has done so. Helping is part of Lyttelton’s DNA,” said McLister.

"This is a natural response of being in a port town.

"It would be a shame if it was forgotten.”

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