Seafarer welfare hub opens in UK port of Port Talbot

Group-L-R Rev. Canon Andrew Wright, Dennis Keogh, Mayor of Port Talbot, Andrew Cassels (Chairman Merchant Navy Welfare Board), Alwyn Bamford, Centre Manager, Rev. Mark Lawson-Jones and Matthew Kennerley, director of Associated British Ports’ South Wales division. Credit: Mission to Seafarers

UK-based seafarer support charity The Mission to Seafarers have opened a new welfare centre for ship crew calling the port of Port Talbot located in South Wales, UK.

Owned and operated by Associated British Ports (ABP), the port of Port Talbot is one of the most significant ports in South Wales due to its use by neighbouring heavy industry for the import of coal, iron ore, sand, cement and slag, and for the export of steel products. The port also has the capacity to handle large volumes of renewable energy fuels, such as wood chips and biomass.

Originally constructed in the 1970’s to have one of the deepest berths in the UK, it is one of the few ports located in the UK capable of handling Capesize vessels of up to 170,000 tonnes DWT. According to ABP, the port handles around 9 million tonnes of cargo annually.

The new welfare centre established at this nationally strategic port will provide vital support to visiting seafarers, giving them a place to relax, socialise, and connect with friends and family. A number of modern facilities can be found in the centre including free WiFi, games consoles, and a small shop. Emotional, spiritual and practical support will also be provided onsite by the port chaplain, centre manager, and volunteer staff.

Rev. Mark Lawson-Jones, Port Chaplain Wales, said, “For a number of years now we’ve been struggling to provide adequate support to the increasing number of seafarers from around the world calling at Port Talbot, due to the limited size of the previous centre and a lack of modern facilities onsite. The new centre will enable us to provide a warm, friendly, and welcoming environment for the hundreds of seafarers who use the port – many of whom will have sailed for 30-40 days without a single stop and without any way of communicating with their loved ones. The centre’s free WiFi for all seafarers is a very important feature.”

The seafarer hub was established following a £35,000 grant awarded to the charity from the Merchant Navy Welfare Board.