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SAVANNAH, GA – July 30th 2015 At yesterday’s appreciation and awareness raising ‘People of The Sea’ luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Chaplain Andy Krey, Executive Director of the Maritime Bethel at Savannah appealed to the Port of Savannah and Homeland Security to consider the plight of seafarers who are denied shore leave when they arrive in port.

Krey focused on the 78,000 people who last year crewed the ships in Savannah – the 4th largest and one of the fastest growing seaports in North America.  He revealed that the 2015 Seamen’s Church Institute’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights which conducted its 14th annual survey during the week of May 23-29th 2015 showed that of the 9,495 crewmembers on 429 vessels docking at 27 US ports, 1,642 were denied shore leave.  Krey confirmed that this 17.2% of crew members denied shore leave was consistent with the Maritime Bethel’s findings in our own Port of Savannah and described this denial as “a cruel and inhumane punishment” for innocent seafarers who are confined on board ship in sight of land.  Krey called for action from The Port Authority and Homeland Security to relax requirements for visas in line with the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic which prohibits countries from requiring seafarers on merchant ships to have a visa before being allowed shore leave.

Krey and his co-presenters explained how the port of Savannah, like many other ports across the world, keeps seafarers hidden from society and that they are forgotten as they enter the highly mechanized ports which are locked behind secure gates with strict security.  Having only seen water and industrial ports with no natural beauty for weeks on end the seafarers that are allowed to leave ship are keen to get their feet onto solid ground and get away from the port. Krey hopes that more people in Savannah will think about the fact that ships carry more than just cargo.

The Maritime Bethel at Savannah is a non-profit organization which provides ‘far away from home’ personal and practical support to seafarers who come into the port of Savannah on big ships from all over the world. The organization urgently needs funds and volunteers to continue with its work in helping seafarers:

The lunch concluded with the casting of a memorial wreath upon the Savannah River to remember the sacrifice made by those lost at sea.

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