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Portside: The need for seafarer welfare services grows with Savannah ports

  • People on River Street watch as the OOCL France arrives in Savannah Thursday afternoon. The 1,203 feet long and 159 feet wide cargo ship is the largest ship to arrive in Savannah since the Development. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)
  • The OOCL France arrives in Savannah Thursday afternoon. The 1,203 feet long and 159 feet wide cargo ship is the largest ship to arrive in Savannah since the Development. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)
  • Crew members stand at the bow of the OOCL France as it arrives in Savannah Thursday afternoon. The 1,203 feet long and 159 feet wide cargo ship is the largest ship to arrive in Savannah since the Development. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)
  • The OOCL France passes Savannah’s city front on her way to Georgia Port’s Garden City Terminal Thursday. With the capability of carrying 13,200 TEUs, the France has eclipsed the COSCO Development as the largest container ship ever to call on the U.S. East Coast. (Photo by Savannahcams.com)

As the Port of Savannah continues to get busier, it’s a logical follow that the fledgling Savannah Port Welfare Committee is seeing an increased need to reach out to the approximately 70,000 seafarers who call on the port annually.

Formed last year, the Port Welfare Committee seeks to bring all local maritime organizations — Georgia Ports Authority, Savannah Maritime Association, the Propeller Club, shippers, stevedores and other maritime businesses, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Maritime Bethel and the International Seaman’s House — under one umbrella for the purpose of providing for the welfare of these seamen, whose needs are very basic.

So far, the Savannah Maritime Association, the Propeller Club, the Coast Guard and Customs, as well as a number of private maritime businesses, have signed on to help the two nonprofit organizations now serving the seafarers

Andy Krey understands the needs of those mariners, many of whom have only a four- to six-hour window of free time when in port. In those few hours, the vast majority are looking for three things, according to Krey, chaplain at the Port of Savannah’s Maritime Bethel.

“The first thing they want is just to get off the ship for a few hours, to get their feet on solid ground,” he said. “The second is a way to connect with loved ones back home, either through phone calls or email. “Finally, they want someone to pray with them, to bless them and to listen to their worries and concerns – whether it’s a sick relative back home, a stressful situation on the ship or a harrowing experience traveling through pirate-infested waters.”

To help meet those needs, Krey’s local ministry – with support from Bible Lutheran Church in Rincon, the Rotary Club of Savannah West and a small core of volunteers –has established a Bethel, a small frame house just outside the gates of Garden City Terminal that can serve as a sanctuary for those few hours away from the ship.

In the first three months of this year, Krey and volunteers logged nearly 25,000 miles transporting 2,729 seamen from their ships to the Bethel, shopping and back. They boarded 951 ships at 12 terminals, conducting services, visiting and distributing literature to nearly 21,000 seafarers.

While the Bethel is relatively new, the Savannah Port Society’s International Seamen’s House at 25 Houston St. has been in operation for nearly 175 years.

With an on-terminal annex, groups can cater to those with little free time by providing a place for them to stretch their legs and take advantage of the provided phone cards and internet to get in touch with loved ones halfway around the world.

Those with a little more time can enjoy going out to eat, shopping or just relaxing at the house downtown.

All of these services are made possible through the generosity of volunteers and donors, but more help is needed.

Krey has need of a volunteer executive director, lodging for short-term missionaries who volunteer at the Bethel for three weeks to three months at a time, light maintenance at the house and volunteers willing to serve on the board of directors.

“We have two openings,” he said. “Our constitution has the usual nonprofit board member requirements plus sea-going experience.

“And, no, having been on a cruise doesn’t count,” he added with a smile.

But, Krey said, the Bethel’s most pressing need is to replace a 12-passenger van that has high mileage and multiple repair issues plus serious wear and tear.

The Bethel currently operates three vehicles with a total expense in 2016, including loan payments, of $42,000, he said.

The next meeting of the Savannah Port Welfare Committee is at 11:30 a.m. June 13 at The Pirates’ House. For more information, contact Carter Hubbard at cartership@gmail.com or Nick Farley at sixpenny@comcast.net.

The next biggest thing

Coming in at a record-breaking capacity of 13,208 TEUs, the OOCL France docked Thursday afternoon at Georgia Ports’ Garden City Terminal.

At 1,203 feet long and 159 feet wide, the France is slightly larger than the COSCO Development, which was celebrated three weeks ago as the largest container ship ever to call on the East Coast.

With 5,300 scheduled container moves, the France began working at 7 p.m. Thursday and is expected to set sail for Charleston in the early morning hours Saturday.

Senior business reporter Mary Carr Mayle covers the ports for the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow. She can be reached at 912-652-0324 or at mary.mayle@savannahnow.com.

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Following are the ships expected to call on Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City and Ocean terminals this week. Schedules are supplied by GPA and are subject to change.

TERMINAL VESSEL ETA

GCT MAERSK PITTSBURGH Today

GCT EVER LOGIC Today

GCT MARGARETE SCHULTE Today

GCT IBRAHIM DEDE Today

GCT MSC KARLSKRONA Today

GCT MOL EMPIRE Today

GCT OOCL ASIA Saturday

GCT APL DANUBE Saturday

GCT MSC KINGSTON Saturday

GCT AS CARELIA Saturday

OT NIKKEI SIRIUS Saturday

GCT COLUMBINE MAERSK Sunday

GCT MSC MICHAELA Sunday

GCT CMA CGM MAUPASSANT Sunday

GCT MOL MAGNIFICENCE Monday

GCT CONTI CORTESIA Monday

GCT MSC ESTHI Monday

GCT MAERSK KINLOSS Monday

GCT GRASMERE MAERSK Monday

GCT BLANDINE Monday

GCT YM UPSURGENCE Monday

GCT SEAMAX NORWALK Tuesday

GCT MSC ELODIE Tuesday

GCT ZIM MONACO Tuesday

GCT ANGELES Tuesday

GCT ZIM RIO GRANDE Tuesday

GCT HONOLULU BRIDGE Tuesday

OT FIDELIO Tuesday

GCT JAN Wednesday

GCT PETROCHEM TRADER Wednesday

GCT MSC AMERICA Wednesday

GCT ST LOUIS EXPRESS Wednesday

GCT NYK TERRA Wednesday

GCT DOLPHIN II Wednesday

GCT MAERSK WEYMOUTH Wednesday

GCT MSC BRANKA Wednesday

GCT BUXCOAST Wednesday

GCT SILVER CINDY Thursday

GCT SANTA BETTINA Thursday

GCT MAERSK KOTKA Thursday

GCT VENICE BRIDGE Thursday

GCT BUDAPEST BRIDGE Thursday

OT GRANDE SENEGAL Thursday

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