BOATY McBoatface will set sail for Antwerp from Tilbury tomorrow (June 17) thanks to an initiative from international maritime charity Sailors’ Society and vessel tracking website MarineTraffic.
The virtual Boaty is visiting locations where Sailors’ Society has port chaplains and ship visitors, such as Cape Town and Odessa, with the aim of raising awareness about the sacrifices made by the world’s 1.5 million seafarers.
Boaty stopped in Tilbury to visit Sailors’ Society port chaplain, Frans Sahetapy, who has been providing practical and emotional support to seafarers visiting the port since 2014.
Frans has worked for Sailors’ Society for more than 12 years, giving welfare support to seafarers in a number of global ports.
Tilbury and London Gateway are crucial to London’s international trade, providing the link between deep-sea fishing and the largest consumer markets in the United Kingdom. The ports see thousands of seafarers pass through each year, and many of them benefit from the support Frans gives.
Stuart Rivers, Sailors’ Society’s Chief Executive Officer said: "Although there is a fun element to Boaty, the message behind it is a more serious one. Seafarers make huge sacrifices to transport 90 per cent of the world’s goods; seeing the distance Boaty travels will highlight how they can face months of isolation."
Seafarers typically spend 270 consecutive days at sea away from their families, and face challenging conditions, loneliness and the threat of piracy.
And in the last year, Sailors’ Society and MarineTraffic have worked together to produce two apps that improve seafarers’ welfare.
The Ship Visitor app enables port chaplains and ship visitors to deliver more effective care to the world’s seafarers.
In April, the Society launched its Wellness at Sea app, which puts health and wellbeing at sea in seafarers’ hands.
The app seeks to combat issues such as fatigue, poor mental health and stress, which affect seafarers on a daily basis and can be the difference between safe transit and a major incident.
Sailors’ Society is encouraging people to track Boaty’s progress on www.marinetraffic.com or via its Wellness at Sea app, which can be downloaded for free on the Google Play and Apple stores.