The London Tilbury Seafarers Centre, which now offers a new 24-hour lounge for seafarers after a major refurbishment programme, was officially reopened on 15th July 2016 by Port of London Authority (PLA) Chairman Christopher Rodrigues.
Seafarers can spend up to nine months at sea away from family and friends for months at a time, confined on their ship and surrounded by thousands of miles of open waters. Once they reach port, they need time off the ship and to get in touch with home.
On the Thames, the London Tilbury Seafarers Centre offers mariners this change of environment, a place to relax, access Wi-Fi, call or email family members, speak with a chaplain or just catch up on their favourite TV shows. Every year the Centre welcomes over 6,000 seafarers, with many more reached on the estimated 1,500 ships that the Chaplains based at the Centre visit annually.
The London Tilbury Seafarers Centre is owned and managed by Centres for Seafarers, an ecumenical collaboration of four Christian maritime mission societies: Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR); The Sailors Society; Mission to Seafarers; and Apostleship of the Sea.
Alexander Campbell, Centres for Seafarers chair, explained why the 24-hour lounge is needed: “We made the change after our Chaplains saw more and more seafarers sitting outside the Centre when it was closed, often in the cold and rain late at night, just to pick up the Wi-Fi signal. With the support of donors and volunteers, we’ve been able to make the change so that we are able to provide our essential services, whenever our users want to access them.”
The upgrades were made possible through a £25,000 grant from the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and a £1,500 contribution from the Port of Tilbury and the PLA towards the cost of a new TV and sofas for the lounge.
Christopher Rodrigues, PLA chairman said: “As an Island nation with 95% of our goods moving by sea, we rely on seafarers who supply the UK with food, clothing, fuel, cars, and furniture day and night, 365 days a year. We need to offer them a welcoming place to unwind, catch up with family, speak with a chaplain, and even do their shopping from. That’s why the opening of the refurbished centre, with 24-hour access is so important.”
The new facilities have been designed with London themed art, so that those who are only in port for a few hours, still have a chance to experience a flavour of the capital’s sites.
Robert Jones, Merchant Navy Welfare Board chairman said: "The new and improved 24 hour facilities at the London Tilbury Seafarers Centre provides important welfare services with shelter, access to Wi-Fi, coffee, TV and friendly supportive people, creating an all-round pleasant experience for visiting mariners”
The London Tilbury Seafarers Centre is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from the local port, shipping communities, and Christian organisations within the London area, the PLA provides funding of £30,000 a year; the Port of Tilbury provides a further £12,000.