AN AGREEMENT has been signed to support the welfare of seafarers and fishers visiting ports including Poole and Portland.

The agreement between the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) outlines ways they will work together to coordinate the provision of welfare.

The memorandum of understanding sets out the responsibilities of the two organisations and commits to sharing information about matters affecting seafarers’ and fishers’ welfare, seeking advice and consulting.

Maritime minister Robert Courts said: “The MCA and the Merchant Navy Welfare Board have been doing a fantastic job of supporting seafarers during the pandemic.

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“Signing a formal agreement reinforces our commitment to put welfare at the heart of the maritime industry both domestically and internationally, giving seafarers that extra assurance as we rebuild the sector and look to the future.”

The memorandum designates the MNWB as the UK’s national seafarers’ welfare board. The board is the umbrella charity for the UK merchant navy and fishing fleets, with 45 member organisations providing support to serving and retired seafarers and their families.

Captain Martin Phipps, of ABP Southampton and chair of the Southern MNWB Port Welfare Committee, said: “These have been extremely difficult times for seafarers and our committee has continued to meet to review, support and help improve the welfare of seafarers and fishers throughout the ongoing pandemic.”

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Julie Carlton, head of seafarer safety and health at the MCA’s UK maritime services, said: “This is an important step in ensuring we continue to work closely together, making the best use of the expertise and capabilities of each organisation. It will also help ensure seafarers’ and fishers’ welfare continues to be supported in our ports and through other services.”

The government says the potential of a working partnership with the MNWB has already been seen during the pandemic. The two, along with the Seafarers’ Charity, provided free mobile WiFi units for seafarers stuck on ships, enabling them to stay in touch with friends and family.