The facility, which provides free WiFi, reading material and even a pool table, offers ship crew a place where they can relax and contact their families back home as they wait to return to their vessels to head to their next port of call.
The refurbished centre is operated by seafarers’ charity, Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) and was opened by Archbishop of Southwark, The Most Reverend Peter Smith in a ceremony yesterday.
The restoration of the centre was made possible by a £4,130 grant from the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB).
MNWB chairman Bob Jones who was also present at the launch said: “We are delighted to support Stella Maris (AoS) in the work you do for seafarers’ welfare both in UK and around the world.”
AoS estimates that each year about 5,000 ships visit ports in the Medway area, with about 80,000 seafarers on board.
AoS’ port chaplain for Kent and Medway, Deacon Paul Glock said: “The Apostleship of the Sea is about not taking seafarers for granted, but making them feel welcome and appreciated and this is their little home.”
Deacon Paul and his team of ship visiting volunteers go on board ships in Chatham, Dover Port, Gillingham Pier, Rochester, Sheerness Docks and Whitstable Harbour to visit seafarers and provide support if needed.
Through its presence at these ports and by using the new centre, AoS is able to provide seafarers with practical and pastoral care.
The centre offers seafarers amenities to communicate with family by internet or phone and space to relax and spend some quiet time.
Archbishop Smith said: “The centre is a great service to seafarers who are all welcomed here. It is a service the church provides. We ask God’s blessing for the future work of this centre.”
Archbishop Smith said his grandfather on his father’s side was a shipwright in Bristol, so the sea ran in his family’s genes.
“AoS does great work and it’s done quietly,” he added.