Reverend Dennis Woodward was once one of 20 chaplains who boarded ships at Europe’s busiest port in Rotterdam, offering help to 500,000 seafarers each year. Now in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, he is the only one remaining.
Woodward is a chaplain for the Mission for Seafarers, and he is devoted to continuing to support seafarers who visit the essential port for access to food, medicine and goods after being at sea for months. Since the outbreak, Woodward wears disposable gloves, keeps his distance from the crew and does not enter vessels. He does not wear a mask, however, as he feels it is important for seafarers to be able to see his face.
Woodward reports that there is a lot of anxiety among crew members, some of whom are stuck in foreign ports without money or flights available to get home. Some crew members have not been paid their wages, and others have had their contracts extended without consent. Woodward is unable to offer his usual pastoral support due to the virus, but he has conversations with the seafarers to express his gratitude for their service. He recalls that one seafarer almost cried when he told him that he was the last chaplain visiting ships.
Last week, the United Kingdom became the first country to recognize seafarers as essential workers who play a pivotal role in continuing the food supply chain. You can read more about the reverend’s work and the struggles faced by many crewmembers here.