Charity helps staff stuck on board empty cruise ships

Image source, Sailors' Society
Image caption,
Simon Mobsby has been wrapping gifts for the cruise ship staff

Hundreds of cruise ship staff stuck on board vessels anchored off the south coast have been helped to do their Christmas shopping by a charity.

Several ships mothballed during the pandemic have been making regular trips to Southampton for fuel and supplies.

But those on board are not allowed to leave the port, meaning they cannot go shopping or see their families.

The Sailors' Society said a member of its team had been "playing Santa", delivering shopping, gifts and letters.

The ships, which have been out of action as a result of the coronavirus crisis, have been crewed by a skeleton staff of about 100 to 150 people while anchored in the English Channel from the Isle of Wight to Weymouth.

The Sailors' Society, which helps stranded seafarers around the world, said it had allowed crew members to use its Southampton offices to receive post and online shopping.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Many of the cruise ship workers have not seen their families for months

Charity worker Simon Mobsby has also been running supermarket errands for those on board and delivering the post and shopping whenever the ships are in dock.

He said: "They have no access to the outside world at all, so I do it on their behalf.

"Their faces light up when I bring them letters and gifts from family and friends. It's a privilege to be able to play Santa.

"People who worked together in the past are now on different ships and they've not been able to see each other for nine months.

"One crew sent a gift order to me on WhatsApp and I delivered the presents to the other ship. When I explained who they were from, they were over the moon."

The charity has also been wrapping its own gifts for the crews, most of whom have been on the ships since before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

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