Sailors from around the world have been left stranded at Aberdeen Harbour amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
The Reverend Howard Drysdale, chaplain at the Seafarers Centre in the Granite City, has revealed that all shore leave has been cancelled for visiting crew members from as far afield as Russia and the Philippines.
The centre itself has been closed to avoid the spread of infection and Mr Drysdale expressed concern about the mental health wellbeing of the sailors from the 40-49 countries who dock in Aberdeen on an annual basis, many of whom have now been left in a foreign country with no prospect of leaving their ship for weeks or even months.
He said: “It’s a really difficult situation for those who are stuck here with no ability to visit the city or get off their vessels.
“I know some of the guys are on zero hours contracts and they are in limbo, with nowhere to go and no prospect of wages while they are here.
”There was no hesitation in closing the Seafarers Centre, because we are dealing with foreign crews and we didn’t want to risk either exposing them to coronavirus or them inadvertently bringing it into Aberdeen with them.
”We have introduced new measures to try and help the sailors affected by this.
“If any of them want to talk to somebody, I am happy to organise Skype or Facebook conversations and we will be moving forward with that in the days ahead.
”I am no longer able to visit any of the crews, so we have to fall back on working remotely.
“Understandably, morale among the guys is pretty low and the uncertainty doesn’t help when you have people who are used to travelling and being busy suddenly finding themselves cooped up with nowhere to go.
”I managed to get a couple of phone cards for two Russian lads and they can now speak to their families. It does make a difference.”
Mr Drysdale has urged any crew members with concerns to contact him on 07754 141076 or email email@example.com.
A spokeswoman for Aberdeen Harbour Board said: “Aberdeen Harbour Board would like to assure all clients and port users that the harbour is open for business and is fully operational, despite the current exceptional circumstances.
“Contrary to some erroneous media reports, the harbour is not ‘effectively in lockdown’. Instead, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic strict protocols are in place to protect the safety of all those working at the port, personnel on vessels in the harbour and the wider general public.
“Aberdeen Harbour is a key part of Scotland’s national infrastructure, supported by the Scottish and UK Governments, providing lifeline services to the Northern Isles and offshore facilities and ensuring a flow of supplies, including fuel, reaches the region.
“All staff are key workers and are to be applauded for currently working above and beyond to ensure continuity of supplies and services. We all have concerns and worries in this unprecedented period but we are all working together to continue to fulfil our duties as effectively as we can and to contribute to the wellbeing of the country at this unsettling time.”