Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Welcome to the Sailors Home and Missions to Seamen’s Mariner’s Club, for those who don’t know me my name is Stephen Miller and I am the Senior Chaplain here.
Tonight you have been invited here to celebrate with us Hong Kong’s Maritime past and it’s present.
In particular we are here to celebrate and recognize the part played by seafarers who man and navigate the ships that supply the world’s markets with over 95% of all the world’s commodities. Indeed without them Hong Kong would not be where it is today.
Since 1863 the Sailors home first founded at West Point has been providing accommodation for international seafarers who arrive in Hong Kong. Through many changing forms and buildings the Sailors Home and Missions to Seamen has served and continues to serve all seafarers regardless of nationality, creed or colour, providing a home away from home for all seafarers who visit or transit through Hong Kong. Meeting the needs of all visiting seafarers with compassion and generosity.
Hong Kong is unusual in today’s world of shipping, whilst in most major port cities of the world the port has been pushed away from the centre to the edge of town, here in Hong Kong shipping still plays a very visible part of what Hong Kong is, remaining geographically central and obvious to anyone who cares to look out towards Lamma and Kwai Chung.
The very existence of this building in the centre of Tsim Sha Tsui is a beacon to all involved in the maritime industry, that centrally located and in a prominent position, Hong Kong wishes to honour seafarers with a great place and a great location to stay whilst in town.
Of course The Mariners’ Club as with any institution faces pressures to move with the times, and just a few years back a major refurbishment took place to provide two floors with upgraded en-suite facilities.
As many of you are aware there are plans to redevelop The Mariners’ Club to provide even better facilities for the future to visiting seafarers of all nations and the community here in Tsim Sha Tsui who we also serve. What is very clear is that this position here in TST is important for a number of reasons,
It’s important for all seafarers who stay here, as they have easy access to shopping, sight-seeing and the experience of staying in downtown Hong Kong.
It’s important for the Maritime community, to provide a base to meet, a focal point and a dedicated building for all seafarers in the centre of Hong Kong, whether they are serving seafarers or retired.
It’s important for the local community who use this facility, whether it’s our church or our meeting rooms. That space can be provided in an economical way rather than the higher prices of other local venues.
Finally it’s important for Hong Kong, nowhere else in the world has such a facility dedicated to seafarers in the heart of their city, nowhere else has a port the size of Hong Kong central to its location. And possibly no other city has been as dependant on shipping as Hong Kong was and still is today.
Tonight I invite you to join me in celebrating Hong Kong’s rich history of maritime, and its future as one of the world’s top maritime centres. Also let us not forget the many seafarers who giving up what we take for granted in our daily lives, go to sea, leaving family and friends for months at a time, enabling us to benefit from the cargoes brought from around the world.
For to celebrate Hong Kong Maritime is also to celebrate seafarers, around you tonight you will see many faces in the exhibition of seafarers from all over the world, some have faced danger through storm and high seas, some have faced danger by the very real threat of piracy either in the Malacca Straits or off the coast of Africa. All have and continue to face the prospect of loneliness and isolation for many months at sea, and with quicker turn-around times in port often no shore leave for weeks.
It is to these people that this building and our mission is dedicated, so tonight to begin this evening lets raise our glasses and toast those who despite danger and separation continue to serve in the merchant navy. To seafarers both past and present!
Finally I would like to thank all our staff who have worked hard over the last weeks in putting this exhibition together, and of course I would like to thank our sponsors, Total Lubmarine, Wah Kwong, Hong Kong International Terminals and TCC Group, without which neither the reception or exhibition would have been possible. So a big thank you to them.
Now please do enjoy both the exhibition and the reception.