Stella Maris provides crucial support for stranded vessels
By Maeve Bannister
The Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre (SMSC) might not be very well-known among Melbournians, but for seafarers on vessels arriving in the Port of Melbourne, it is a lifeline to the land.
This has been especially true during the COVID-19 restrictions, when seafarers are unable to disembark their ships.
In March, Stella Maris received a WhatsApp message from a seafarer on board one of the stranded vessels who was running out of vital medication.
Manager James McCully said staff jumped to action to figure out how to get a medical script from the Philippines filled by a doctor in Melbourne.
“We were lucky that our chairman, Seamus Quinn, has a son who is a medical practitioner, Dr James Quinn, so we sought his advice,” Mr McCully said.
“Dr Quinn gave us a copy of a script that could be dispensed in Melbourne because we have the same medication in Australia, and then staff from Stella Maris delivered it to the ship.”
Word travels fast onboard, and the team is now receiving regular requests from crews arriving in Melbourne with emergency prescription needs.
Before the pandemic, 80 per cent of seafarers would come to Stella Maris or use it as their base while they stayed in Melbourne.
Located in the CBD at 600 Little Collins St, Stella Maris is usually the perfect place for the crew to contact their families and have a chance to see (and shop) all of Melbourne’s delights.
Now, the Stella Maris team does the shopping for them.
“We get all sorts of requests from ships, pretty much everything under the sun,” Mr McCully said.
“Large screen TVs, coffee machines, computers, phones, lollies, chips and the other week we organised for six dozen Krispy Crème donuts to be delivered to one of the vessels.”
The seafarers have been stranded on board their vessels for months, required to work well past their contracted periods.
Mr McCully said Stella Maris wanted to provide some comforts of life on land as much as possible.
“Everyone forgets about seafarers because no one ever sees them, but their work is vital because 80 percent of goods that we have in Australia come in by sea,” he said.
“We wanted to get the message to them that ‘we know you’re there, and we care’.”
When a vessel is due to arrive, Stella Maris finds out how many people are on board and works to provide a care package for everyone.
The care packages are filled with donations from the community and include books, toiletries, clothes, beanies and anything else Stella Maris receives.
“We’ve organised 2074 care packs since March, and we’ll keep on going,” he said •
For more information: stellamaris.org.au