The inaugural ‘offshore live mass’ was broadcast over WIFI by Father Paulo H Prigol, chaplain of ship-visiting network Stella Maris Manila, a catholic charity which cares for seafarers and their families.
The broadcast was made to the vessel sailing from America to the East while Father Paulo conducted the mass from Manila while production of the filming was managed live by Tapiit’s team in Liverpool.
The ‘Simbang Gabi’ mass celebrated by Father Paolo was part of a traditional nine-day series of masses practised in the Philippines in anticipation of Christmas.
Tapiit Live CEO Richard Turner said the live broadcast was made possible following a new deal Tapiit struck with sat-comms provider Inmarsat in October. The deal gives Tapiit enough bandwidth to live-stream training and events to nearly 10,000 ships worldwide. The technology for live-streaming on this scale at sea was previously thought to be ten years into the future.
“With seafarers under so much pressure we jumped at the chance to help,” he said. “Seafarers are caught in the eye of the COVID storm with up to 400,000 unable to return home at the end of their contracts. A huge number of those are Filipino as they make up around a quarter of world's 1.2m merchant seafarers. Their Catholic faith is very important to them and it is brilliant that we are using this new partnership with Inmarsat to support them. This is the kind of positivity and innovation we wanted to create when we set up Tapiit Live. And to be able to link in the families to the mass as well made it even more special.”
He said the mass had benefited all those who took part. “Tapiit employees who witnessed the mass described the joy they felt to be part of such an emotional event and seeing the lift this gave to those who provide us with such vital services all year round,” he said. “Tapiit exists to improve the lives of seafarers and so it was amazing to see in action how much of a difference we can make using technology.”
In a message sent to Tapiit, the crew praised the initiative, which they said had given them a welcome boost during such difficult times.
They said: “We, the Filipino crew, thank all the parties involved for organising the online mass. We are thankful for uplifting our spirits despite what’s happening now. We are far away from our families and the message was timely appropriate.”
Ian Stokes, head of corporate engagements and partnerships at Stella Maris, said: "This is a hugely significant event and Stella Maris was delighted to be at the heart of providing spiritual support to this crew. Faith plays an integral part in the lives of many seafarers and their families and can be enormously beneficial to mental health. We look forward to further such ventures with Tapiit.”
Richard said Tapiit is now speaking with various faith backed seafarer charities keen to offer religious services to ships worldwide.
“This is just the beginning, we feel live religious services, could become very popular as there is such a strong bond between faith and seafaring going back centuries,” he said. “Many of the team here at Tapiit are former seafarers so it really matters to us that we help mariners combat the isolation of being away at sea - especially now.”
The launch of live-stream masses follows Tapiit’s recent announcement of a new package of mental health courses for seafarers. The sessions are the first ever mental health courses to be live-streamed both onshore and offshore. The three courses include support for leaders, crew and also a tailored package for coronavirus related issues.