Dakar is both the principal port of Senegal and its capital city. The 'Port autonome de Dakar' is a Senegalese public enterprise. This extremely busy port handles a variety of trades which includes frequent visits from cruise ships, as well as regular calls from large and feeder container ships, car carriers, break bulk and bulk, petrochemicals and crude oil, which is discharged on buoys several miles offshore. The port handles an average of 10m tonnes of freight annually. There is also a car ferry service to southern Senegal (bypassing Gambia) and local passenger ferry to nearby Goree Island. Oil exploration discovered large reserves off-shore and commercial drilling is expected to begin in the foreseeable future. Dakar is also a major hub port for inland African states to the east. There is a large ship repair facility including a dry-dock and floating dock. There are also numerous fishing vessels using the port, both inshore and deep-water and of the latter many are from the Chinese Republic. The port is widespread and many of the berths are a long distance from the Stella Maris Seafarers Centre and the city centre, which is widely regarded as a safe place to visit.
The Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) has a Stella Maris centre which is attached to a Catholic parish church just outside the port boundary. There is also a Catholic cathedral in the city centre and both are very well supported by large congregations. The Stella Maris is open to all seafarers regardless of faith. Fr. Christophe Buirette is both the local parish priest and port chaplain and has around 45 volunteers who man the centre and conduct ship welfare visits. While the level of support to seafarers is excellent there is need for a dedicated seafarers port welfare vehicle.
Under the leadership of Capt. Oumar Drame and guidance of Capt. David Parsons, the inaugural meeting formally established the Senegalese National Seafarers’ Welfare Board. Whilst the Board will initially focus on the Port of Dakar, it would eventually cover other Senegalese ports. The following members were elected: President - Commandant Oumar Dramé; 1st Vice Président - Fr. Christophe Buirette; 2nd Vice Président - M. Douda Siby; Secretary - M. Abitaleb Nguer.
Further to requests from local trade unions and the Dakar pilotage authority, the IPWP programme visited Dakar to help set up a welfare board and attend the biennial International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA) Congress 2018. Both of these prestigious events were co-ordinated locally by Commandant Oumar Dramé.
Pilots are often the first local person to board a vessel arriving in port; as such they can provide an extremely important link between visiting seafarers and shore-based welfare facilities. The IMPA fully supports seafarers welfare, therefore, they kindly agreed that IPWP could present their programme at their congress in Dakar, which consisted of over 200 delegates from around the world. Following a successful IPWP presentation by Capt. David Parsons, a Senegal National Seafarers Welfare Board was formed with the support of the maritime community.