Last year’s bombings in Brussels have led to the banning of anonymous sim cards, which has meant seafarers are struggling to contact home.
Since 17 December, every Belgian sim card needs to be registered.
Unregistered cards cannot be activated as the process is done electronically on a special website, and seafarers need to show European identification or a passport.
Seafarers who are able to go ashore need to show a photocopy of their passport to buy a sim card at the Antwerp Seafarers’ Centre or any shop which stocks them.
However, due to turnaround times, most seafarers aren’t able to get ashore.
Registering a sim card takes time and can only be done by the seller and as a result a number of shops have stopped selling Belgian sim cards, at least for now.
Communication is a basic need of seafarers and being able to contact home is indispensable for their mental well-being.
So port chaplains, like me, have become responsible for the registration of sim cards.
I go on board with my computer and use my mobile phone as a hotspot to carry out the electronic registration for seafarers.
It is a time consuming procedure and can mean I spend hours on one ship but seeing the happy faces of seafarers is more than enough reward.