An international maritime welfare charity caring for those who work at sea has announced a "strategic reorganisation" to regionalise its efforts and increase efficiency.
The Mission to Seafarers has been operating since 1856 and currently has chaplains and volunteers working in over 260 ports worldwide, 29 of which are in the UK. They provide help, guidance and support for the1.3 million men and women who spend extraordinary amount of time at sea, regardless of their rank, nationality or beliefs.
As well as spiritual and emotional support, the charity offers practical help such as phone cards for contacting family members, and works closely with local organisations, networks and emergency services.
'Flying Angel' centres operated by volunteers offer "a home away from home" for those who have spent weeks or even months aboard the same vessel and are in need of some comfort, rest and relaxation.
Its latest statement reveals that the charity will be regionalising its service to "refocus" its activities, which will save both time and money. Several of its global regions are already operating independently, though each retains the same purpose and a shared identity.
Under new plans, The Mission to Seafarers in Africa, the Middle East and East Asia will become independent regions in April 2014, and further separate regions will be established in the future, with changes also outlined for the UK and European operations.
It is hoped that this will enable the charity to renew its focus and allow regions to better tailor their efforts for individual needs and requirements.
"This process of regionalisation has many benefits," says the Secretary General Reverend Andre Wright.
"Ensuring close support for local teams, tapping into regional energies, engaging regions more actively in policy-making and encouraging a greater sense of local responsibility in relation both to funding and to service delivery."
The charity is also in the process of expanding its global presence.
"The Mission has a commitment to developing chaplaincy teams in new or growing ports, especially where there is evidence that there is no alternative welfare provision," Wright asserts, adding that "a number of ports are currently under active exploration".
Operations are entirely funded by voluntary donations and the new strategy will not only give regions the opportunity to better serve their locality, but also set the charity "on a realistic path to a balanced budget within an acceptable time frame", says Executive Director Martin Sandford.
Robert Woods, Chairman of the Trustees, says the charity is "absolutely confident" that the transitions will be a positive move, noting that the mission "has seen many changes in its 158 history".
"The new strategy will take us forward in our ability to deliver a strong, flexible, modern and focused welfare and support service to the seafarers to whom all of us within The Mission to Seafarers remain absolutely dedicated," said Woods.