The Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association has opened a temporary shelter where Ukrainian seafarers can reunite with their families who are fleeing the war-torn country after it has been invaded by Russia.
Located in Hoboken, south of the city of Antwerp, the empty office building was offered for use thanks to the generosity of its owner. Through the help of Antwerp’s alderwomen Els Van Doesburg, lawyer Philippe Billiet, and numerous other volunteers, the RBSA was able to refit the property in record time into a shelter to receive Ukrainian seafarers and their families, where each family has their own private sleeping quarters.
As Ukrainian seafarers are unable to return to their country after having completed their mission at sea, Belgian shipowners transport them to the shelter where they are able to reunite with their families. Families arrive via different means – by car, by train and some by plane. Until they find more suitable lodging, seafarers and their families are welcome to stay at the shelter for free.
“When the first family arrived, I could see that they looked tense and tired,” said Hilde Peeters, RBSA’s Head of Social and Fiscal Affairs. “When I visited them again a few days later with our Managing Director Wilfried Lemmens and Chairman Ludwig Criel, the children came running to us and welcoming us with open arms. It was a wonderful sight to behold.“