On this Day of the Seafarer, we’ve asked some of Ukrainian seafarers to share their stories with the world. Earlier in May, Belgian shipowners set up a shelter for Ukrainian seafarers who are unable to return home after their mission, to reunite with their family here in Belgium. Here is what some of them would like to say.
Hi, my name is Victor. I’m working as Chief Officer for the Belgian shipping company, Boeckmans Ship Management.
I come from Odessa, a port city located in the south of Ukraine. When I had to decide on the course of study when I was younger, I was offered a choice between different schools but in the end, I decided to go for the Maritime Academy. I certainly did not miscalculate that move!
Since 2006, I started working onboard and I really like steering the vessel. It gives me a sense of freedom and satisfaction.
I am grateful to my company for having organised the reunion with my family here in Belgium. Back in February, when I was still at sea, I was really worried for the safety of my family, especially my two-year old. With the help of my company, my wife and child, as well as my sister and her child managed to arrive in Belgium after a long and difficult journey. When I joined them after my mission, you cannot imagine how happy I was the moment I held them in my arms!
Here in Belgium, life for us has been smooth. Everyone speaks English here, so we have no communications problem at all when we go out for groceries for example. The children even got some toys donated by the seafarers’ union. In a month or two, I will again go on a mission. But this time, I can leave with a peace of mind.
On the Day of the Seafarer, I hope shipping companies in other countries can also help Ukrainian seafarers in similar ways.
My name is Gennadiy, and my son is Mykhailo. I am Chief Officer on board a Tanker at Euronav. Mykhailo is currently a cadet, and he’s studying to be an officer. Following my footsteps, he is also working for Euronav.
We come from Kherson in the south of Ukraine.
I have been working with Euronav since 2015. When I was younger, I had the somewhat romantic idea about being a seafarer and I had always wanted to see the world. Now with two children, I’m glad that my job provides the stability and decent income for me and my family.
After the war broke out when I was still at sea, I contacted my company to help me arrange for a safe accommodation on my shore leave as I could not return to Ukraine. I disembarked at Rotterdam at the end of my mission in March and was reunited with my son in May who also finished his mission there.
Mykhailo has had a more difficult start to his seafaring career. Right after he started in 2019, he had to stay on board 9 months because of the crew change crisis caused by COVID. And now with the war…
We are really grateful to our company for providing us a safe place to live. It is really something that other shipowners could do to help Ukrainian seafarers at this moment.
While both Mykhailo and I are now safe in Belgium, we worry for my wife and my other son who are still in Kherson right now. As the city is fully occupied by Russian forces, communications have not been smooth as the Ukrainian networks seem to been cut off. Both my wife’s mother and my mother are in their eighties, which is why my family decided to stay instead of flee.
On the Day of the Seafarer, both of us would like to appeal for peace and for understanding and support for Ukranian seafarers who are now still in Ukraine and who are now working to keep the world trade running.