New centre in Dockyard caters for ship crews
The Bermuda Sailors’ Home has opened a new centre in Dockyard to cater for the crews of cruise ships.
Ilya Cherapau, manager at the Bermuda Sailors’ Home in Hamilton, said the Seafarers’ Centre was a logical move because of the distance between Dockyard and the home, on Serpentine Road, Hamilton.
He added: “This Dockyard expansion was an organic thing to do.
“Even if they know where this place is and we provide everything, even if we pay for their trip, it may still be impossible for them to come because the time they have off is limited.”
Mr Cherapau said that the new centre, expected to be open until the end of cruise ship season in October, opened last month without publicity, but had already attracted up to 50 crew members a day.
He added: “The official ceremony was on July 29, but on the 20th I stopped by to see how it was going. We hadn’t advertised it, just put a little sign outside to say it was a Seafarers’ Centre.
“They showed me the log book and I was shocked. Without telling anyone, just by putting the sign out, we had between 30 and 50 people daily registering and using the facility.”
The centre, behind Media Lounge Cinema and managed by its owners, was designed to give crews from visiting ships the chance to sit down, go online and communicate with their families overseas.
Francis Richardson, the CEO of the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority, said the centre was an important addition to services for sailors on visits to the island.
He added: “They make great sacrifices by working at sea. Many of them are leaving home for long periods of time, they miss important and significant milestones like anniversaries, birthdays and sometimes even the birth of their own children.
“It’s a tough world. There are upsides to it, but it is certainly a sacrifice.
“Having a facility where they can come ashore and feel a bit at home is extremely important and in Bermuda during the summer season, we have a large volume of crew on the island.”
Shakira Hayward, also of the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority, added: “When you are on a ship, all you want to do is keep in contact with your family members. You get a lot of seafarers with wives, husbands and children. They want somewhere safe and somewhere clean to reach out to their families.”
Mr Cherapau added it was hoped that the centre could be operated for every cruise season.
He explained: “This is the first year and we didn’t quite know how everything was going to work out. There were several things that could go wrong, but I think for a first year it’s a great success both for us and the seafarers.
“Because we had no idea what the feedback would be and it involves a financial commitment, we said let’s open for a limited time and set aside three months of funds.
“The Mission to Seafarers, an international charity who serve merchant crews, financed another month of operation, so it will go to October, which is pretty much the end of the cruise season.”
Mr Cherapau added: “Next year, we will look to see how much funds we can guarantee and we will try to reach out to the local and international community to see if we can fund the full season.”
He said the Seafarer’s Centre could offer additional services to seafarers, such as shuttle buses and the ability to use the centre as a mailing address, if sufficient funds were available.
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