Working Life: Steve Loader at Sailors' Society

The port chaplain at the Christian charity helps members of the seafaring community from all backgrounds, nationalities and faiths

Steve Loader
Steve Loader

Not many people realise that 90 per cent of the goods that enter the UK come by sea, and the people that bring them here are largely an unseen part of our society.

My job is to go aboard the ships coming into the Portbury and Avonmouth docks near Bristol and try to help the crew in any way I can.

If there are Christian seafarers on board, I'm there to help them spiritually, but I'm there to help people from all backgrounds, nationalities and faiths.

Even if I'm not helping sailors in a religious capacity, I want them to feel lifted up, so I'll have a bit of a laugh with them, talk about their families, their own countries, politics or football - anything to engage with them and let them know I'm a friend and I'm there to support them.

I'll also do practical things such as bringing phone cards on board and setting them up, bringing them newspapers or woolly hats to keep their heads warm or taking them to the shops to pick up anything they might need.

Being a seafarer is a tough job: they're under a lot of pressure and away from their families. Ships are getting bigger, crews are getting smaller and they're very isolated at sea, so who knows what's going on out there?

So when I go on board a ship, I'm always having a look around, listening and trying to make myself aware of conditions on the vessel. I'll look at the way they engage with me, ascertaining whether there's any sense of a bad atmosphere or if things are looking good and members of the crew appear to be upbeat.

When I do come across welfare issues, such as bullying or crews not getting paid for several months, I can tip off the inspectors from the International Transport Workers' Federation - I'm an extra pair of eyes for that body, and usually when it takes a look it can get a poor situation resolved.

I love feeling that I can make a difference and put smiles on faces. That sense of helping somebody is very rewarding.

Steve Loader is a port chaplain at Sailors' Society

Sailors' Society is a Christian charity that supports and cares for seafarers around the world

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