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Harbour hoot in Wick for carers and seafarers


By David G Scott

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THE weekly Clap for Our Carers session in Wick last night was noisier than previous Thursdays thanks to Seacat catamarans in the harbour blasting their sirens.

In a short video by Willie Munro, of Caithness Seacoast tours, the three Seacat vessels – Mischief, Magic and Volunteer – were joined by a fourth, the Dalby Aire, working under a Seacat contract, for a one-minute chorus of their ships' whistles.

Colin Barber, the ship's master on board Seacat Mischief, said there were two distinct reasons for last night's hoot but both were connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

Seacat catamarans in Wick harbour. Picture: Colin Barber
Seacat catamarans in Wick harbour. Picture: Colin Barber

"It was in recognition of not only the key workers but also seamen throughout the world who have been largely forgotten about at this time," Colin said.

"In a lot of the larger ships, crews are stuck on board much longer and can't travel to be with their families. It's more difficult to get them from the vessel as well.

"Because of the lockdown and social distancing there are fewer flights to take crews back from the farther reaches of the globe where some may find themselves."

The scene at Wick harbour may look quiet but there was a loud hoot coming from the Seacat vessels. Picture: William Munro
The scene at Wick harbour may look quiet but there was a loud hoot coming from the Seacat vessels. Picture: William Munro

Seacat Services runs a contract with Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited (Bowl) to ferry workers to and from the cluster of turbines situated 12 miles off the Caithness coast.

The 26-metre catamarans benefit from extensive fuel and cargo-carrying capacity and operate at a service speed of up to 26 knots.

Colin said the crews at Wick harbour are having to live on board the vessels as their "homes" and their movements are restricted due to the lockdown.

The crew members, though living in relative comfort and on a three-week rota, realised there were many other seamen throughout the world who were not as fortunate and unable to return home.

Globally, there are an estimated 1.6 million seafarers working on various types of ships who are responsible for transporting 90 per cent of the world’s trade – much of what we we own was transported by a seafarer.

A Seacat making its way to the Bowl turbines off the Caithness coast. Picture: Colin Barber
A Seacat making its way to the Bowl turbines off the Caithness coast. Picture: Colin Barber

The workers live and work on board for months at a time, driving the ship, maintaining its machinery and loading and discharging cargo at ports around the world.

With an average crew size of just 23 people, seafarers are used to social isolation.

Superficially, all seems well and goods are still flowing but the men and women transporting these goods are struggling.

In a normal month, approximately 100,000 seafarers leave their ships and are replaced by others, but these crew changes have been cancelled.

Colin said: "In a gesture of appreciation for key workers and carers we'd been clapping on a Thursday night in the normal way.

"But last night, we thought we'd try something a little bit different and also spare a thought for the crews of ships stuck in far away places thousands of miles from home."

He admits that the Seacat crews in Wick are in relative luxury compared with many seafarers abroad and are able to return home.

"There's a new crew coming up on Wednesday next week so we'll encourage them to keep this going," he said.

"It's important to highlight the issue of these stranded seamen too."

The video can be viewed at youtu.be/_u8y4xD3FYQ



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