IN DEBT: Mission to Seafarers makes urgent plea for funding
A DEBT-ridden Mission to Seafarers has issued an urgent plea to local industries for money or it will shut in 11 days.
The group, which helps international seafarers who arrive at the Port of Gladstone daily, needs more than $100,000 to repay debt and continue operating until December.
General manager Jessica Mulhall said the potential closure could leave Gladstone in a vulnerable position.
"If the mission closes Gladstone will be the biggest port in Australia and possibly the western world without a welfare service to support the seafarers,” Ms Mulhall said.
At a meeting held at the Mission to Seafarer's Hall today, the organisation and the Port Welfare Committee pleaded their case to industry representatives.
Since being deemed "unsustainable” last year in its current funding model, Ms Mulhall said the group had tried to get more financial support from industries and governments.
Ms Mulhall said that in April the situation worsened when the group was made aware of outstanding operational and overhead costs, which had mounted over three years.
At the meeting she admitted the previous administration of Mission to Seafarers had a "bad reputation”.
Ms Mulhall said in her 17 months as general manager she had worked hard to restore the reputation of the organisation.
"We have no hidden agenda here,” she said.
The Mission to Seafarers is a worldwide organisation aimed to provide welfare services for all ship personnel.
In Gladstone the organisation provides a free shuttle service from the ship to its building on Alf O'Rourke Dr where seafarers can access a variety of services such as church, internet to contact family and a souvenir shop.
More than 60,000 seafarers visit the Harbour City each year and Ms Mulhall said dollars spent went back to the local economy.
"We're only asking for $2 per seafarer and that's enough to keep us open,” she said.
To date Gladstone Ports Corporation is the only company to approve additional funding for Mission to Seafarers, committing $80,000 a year over six years.
Acting chief executive officer Craig Walker said the organisation provided an important service.
"GPC has supported the Mission since its establishment in Gladstone in 1970,” Mr Walker said.
The corporation provided the Mission's office space, recreational centre at the Auckland Point Terminal, the land the organisation resides on and maritime security ID cards for staff and volunteers.
"We hope to see all stakeholders work together to ensure the ongoing operation of the Gladstone Mission, ensuring the valuable services they provide to our visiting seafarers and the broader Gladstone community can continue into the future,” Mr Walker said.
Ms Mulhall said GLNG was also considering a funding arrangement.
Committee chairman Captain Mike Lutze said under Title 4 of the Maritime Labour Convention all Australian ports must offer onshore welfare facilities to seafarers..
"That requirement is done by the Mission to Seafarers,” Mr Lutze said.
"If (they) weren't here, someone else has to do it.
"The responsibility rests with the ship owner to have his seafarers looked after on Australian ports.
"Who is going to pick up that slack?”
The organisation has approached other parties for assistance such as: APLNG, Smit Lamnalco, Gladstone Regional Council, and state and federal governments.
Most either gave no response or refused to fund the service.
Cement Australia has made a donation of $100 to Mission to Seafarers instead of a requested $20,000 over three instalments.
Rio Tinto and APLNG were contacted for comment but did not respond in time for deadline.