About 300 seafarers pour into to the Tauranga Seafarer’s Centre each week seeking out a hot cuppa, free wifi and a safe space to rest.
Seafarers from Philippines, China, India, Russia, Poland, Fiji and Kiribati regularly seek out services offered by the volunteer-run centre located within the Port of Tauranga.
Last month, the centre was shortlisted in the top six Seafarer Centre’s of The Year for the 2019 International Seafarer’s Welfare Awards.
TSC manager Murray Smith says they are the busiest port welfare centre in New Zealand.
"You have no idea when you roll up to the centre in the morning what you are going to a face in a day. It could be three men or it could be 60."
The group recently received words of encouragement to "keep up the good work caring for the group nobody else notices.”
Seafarers’ needs are simple when they arrive in Tauranga.
"The number one biggie is getting in touch with family, contacting home," says Murray.
Many of the seafarers have been at sea for over three weeks without wifi access, travelling from China or South America.
"All they can think about is contacting home. They are in here for the free wifi.
“Filipinos will bowl in all smiles and happy to be here, then they'll be talking to mum at home on video call and they will bring the phone around and introduce you to the whole family."
Murray says the award shows the centre is meeting the needs of seafarers from across the world.
"The seafarers are very happy with what we are doing. And there's no one else doing anything for them, so if we weren't here they would be having a pretty miserable time in Tauranga.
"When you get a captain off a container ship who has been in port for 24 hours and just before he sails away he drops $US100 in your hand and says 'it's been a bloody good day' you know you are on the right track," Murray laughs.
The centre also offers support from ‘on-call’ trained chaplains, foreign currency exchange, a shop and a free bus taking seafarers to Bayfair.
Volunteer Ans Weber reiterates that the centre is an inclusive centre for everybody.
“You don’t have to be Christian or Catholic – this is a safe space for everyone to come and rest.”
Tauranga Seafarers Centre is calling on people to help them continue their hard work supporting the hardworking men at sea.
For more information, visit: www.unitedseafarersmission.org