Way to go. Seafarers picking up essential supplies at the retail store onboard Flying Angel Image Credit: Supplied

FUJAIRAH MV Flying Angel, a 23-metre vessel servicing around 2,500 seafarers in Fujairah waters, has launched a mobile retail store.

Commissioned by Angel Appeal, the Dubai arm of global charity The Mission to Seafarers, the ship now has an onboard duty-free shopping facility where seamen can buy personal supplies like groceries, phone cards, clothes and books at affordable prices.

“They have little access to land and this retail store is just about perfect for them,” said Paul Burt, regional director of The Mission to Seafarers.

One of its kind

The boat is the only floating seafarers centre in the world that caters to the practical and pastoral needs of seamen aboard ships that come to the Fujairah anchorage on the east coast of the UAE to collect cargoes and refuel. Burt said the Flying Angel also gives them a chance to meet the crews of other ships. “It can be frustrating living miles away from the shore for weeks and not interacting with the outside world. We give people the chance to get out of their ships and mingle with other sailors,” said Burt.

Seafarers often go for days without an internet connection and the ability to see or speak to their families. Flying Angel helps them get in touch with their loved ones by providing them with wi-fi connections and internet facility.

According to Burt nearly 8,000 seafarers are currently in various UAE ports.

“They are enduring very tough conditions. Many haven’t been paid for months. These are bad times for the marine industry,” he said.

“Every month, we help around 120 seafarers. Just last week we sent home 40 who were stuck in the Ajman port for days. Their salaries were pending but we negotiated with the ship owner and got some part of the outstanding salaries cleared, he said, adding that he is expecting a significant rise in distress cases in the coming days.

The Mission to Seafarers has been in operation since the 19th century and has had a presence in Dubai since 1962.