By Trish Johnston
Ship visiting is something that gets easier as you get into a routine of it: you stop forgetting your TWIC card at the office, you have more confidence driving in a terminal you’ve been at every day this week, you are constantly in the mindset it takes to do your best when you get on board. Some days I struggle with ship visiting for just an afternoon, especially if I haven’t been out on the port in months. Today was one of those days.
We are missing some of our key ship visiting manpower who are attending NAMMA conference happening in Montreal, so I have been on call for ship visiting this week. Mesfin was alone ship visiting today, and is a saint for bearing the brunt of the work. I was assigned only one ship, an extremely light load. Still, coming off two late nights writing a paper for school and with torrential rain in the forecast, I had to psych myself up to get ready to go out. Soon enough though, I knew God had his hand on my day.
I gathered everything I needed to go ship visiting: hard hat, TWIC, safety vest, phone cards, paperwork, pen, lunchbox; and then triple checked that I had the essentials. I headed down Columbus Boulevard, thinking over everything I had to do: both on board and when I got back to the office. It was all a little overwhelming.
No visitor vehicles are allowed to drive onto the pier at Packer Ave, instead we ride a van out to the ship. Most often, the ride is a fairly silent one, the driver focusing on getting where we need to go. Today, I stepped onto the van and the driver got a big smile on his face and said, ‘long time, no see!’ I grinned when I realized he remembered me – and we chatted the whole ride down the pier.
When I got on board I had wonderful conversations with the crew – I heard about a four year old son back in the Philippines, who loves cars. Every other word out his mouth when he skypes with his dad is ‘VROOM VROOM’. I got to see the joy on the face of a seafarer who is signing off in mid-October, he said he is very ready for three or four months at home. I witnessed to the worry of the crew of this ship who is headed from here down to Wilmington, NC, right alongside Hurricane Joaquin. I got to offer the promise that we would all be praying for them.
The visit was soon over and I headed down the gangway to wait for the van to come pick me up. After about 5 minutes, a safety checker in a pickup truck came over and said, ‘Hop in, there’s no reason for you to be waiting around out here,’ so I got a swift ride back to the gate to be on my way.
Despite my slow moving reluctance this morning, today was a holy day of ship visiting. I was reminded of the good nature of all the people that work on our piers. On board, I was reminded of the importance of our work and the ministry of presence we provide. And, it didn’t rain.
Trish serves as Volunteer Coordinator at the Seamen's Church Institute.