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30/11/2021 10:35 AM

Marine Pilots Annual Christmas Hamper Drive for Seafarers 

What started out as a kind and generous way to spread some festive cheer to seafarers visiting Port Botany during Christmas, has now turned into an annual event by Port Authority of NSW Sydney Marine Pilots. 

The Port Authority of NSW Marine Pilots Christmas Hamper Drive continues this year with 2000 packs having been put together by more than 20 staff and volunteers at Port Botany recently. 

International seafarers often spend months at sea at a time, and have one of the most isolating jobs going, but this Christmas, Sydney marine pilot Michael Kelly will lead a team of Sydney Marine Pilots, Cutter Crew and Port Officers to bring some festive cheer to Port Botany. 

In 2018 Michael produced the idea to give a Christmas gift bag packed with chocolate treats and practical items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant to as many visiting seafarers as possible and as a result has helped to deliver up to 8000 hampers. 

Sydney and Port Botany harbour Master Myron Fernandes with Marine Pilot Michael Kelly packing hampers

After receiving heart-warming feedback from many Captains over the years, this year Michael will continue his work with the full support of his colleagues at Port Authority, The Tas Bull Foundation, and Sr Mary Leahy, along with such supporters as some Josephite nuns, the Australian Mariners Welfare Society, Hutchinson, DP World, Engage Towage and Patricks' wharfies who have all put some financial backing into the gift hampers to make sure the gift bags are handed to crews calling into port. 

A bonus to the gift hampers is the personal touch put into the Christmas cards, which are written on by Port Authority Marine Pilots and their families. In fact, Michael said in the lead up to the hamper packing day he encourages his kids to write on the cards with him, as he knows his colleagues do the same with their children. 

Mr Kelly said Christmas can sometimes be one of the loneliest times of the year for seafarers. So, to see the joy on the seafarers' faces when they see our Marine Pilots coming up the gangway is worth all the effort in the Port Authority staff in doing this. 

Michael and Port Authority work closely with maritime charities like Mission to Seafarers, Sister Mary Leahy (chaplain to seafarers in Sydney) and the Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation which provide vital support services to seafarers in Sydney 

“Marine pilots are the first and last people the ship’s crew see when they enter and exit port — we can make an enormous difference to their welfare. The volunteers here help with transport, take books, newspapers, and warm clothes onto the ships, or just sit to talk with the crews and listen to their problems. A simple newspaper becomes so important when you don’t have internet, tv or radio for months at a time.”