The giant new Tuas Port is a boon for Singapore, but it presents an enormous challenge for the Mission to Seafarers.

Tuas is at the western end of the island, far from the Pasir Panjang and Jurong ports it will supplement. To say this will stretch the Mission’s resources is an understatement.

Frederick Francis and Chris Jones, the Mission to Seafarers Singapore’s new chairman and vice chairman, told TradeWinds that Tuas’ distance from the Mission’s drop-in centres in the two existing ports means a third centre is needed to cater for the welfare needs of the seafarers whose ships call at the new port.

Francis confirmed that his organisation will have a presence in Tuas Port and has been working on this with maritime authorities and the port operator, which he described as very supportive.

The hope is to be given an area big enough so that the drop-in centre can include a table tennis space and even a basketball court, two facilities that he noted are high on the wish list of seafarers who use the existing drop-in centres.

However, the Mission will need much more in the way of fundraising, manpower and volunteers.

Jones said that although fundraising efforts have been sufficient to support its current activity levels and size, there is a strong need for a more consistent income to meet the Tuas challenge. He hopes to increase donations, especially from maritime organisations and companies.

To secure more corporate funding, the Mission is looking to become an Institution of Public Character, a status that the government bestows on approved charities that allows supporters to receive tax deductions on donations.

Providing staff to run operations in an additional port is also an issue highlighted by Francis and Jones, who were appointed to their roles at the Mission in June.

Aside from overcoming the struggle of attracting more full-time employees, it is focusing on adding volunteers, especially from the younger generation.

“We want Singapore to be known as a port with a heart, that we have the heart for seafarers,” said Francis, a former captain.

“Once more people are involved, then they’ll realise that the seafaring profession is quite interesting and is quite dignified.”

The Mission in Singapore will continue highlighting the role seafarers play as the backbone of shipping, while increasing public awareness of the issues they face.

Jones believes the plight of seafarers came to full notice during the pandemic.

“Only then did people realise the importance of their roles,” he said. “They kept us fed, watered, clothed and powered.

“Letting people know on board that people do care for them and recognise the important role that they have on our well-being. It’s all about awareness and making people feel wanted, and that’s what we’re hoping to serve.”

When it comes to the Tuas Port challenge, the Mission has one thing in its favour: time.

Although the port officially opened in September 2022, its development is being spread over phases, with a targeted completion in the 2040s.