Creative Hospitality in the Port of Vancouver

Bill Wong
February 07 2022


About a month ago, Paul, a fellow port chaplain, and I visited a cargo ship docked at the Neptune Bulk Terminals in North Vancouver.  After we boarded, we met with the captain and two of his officers, and during our conversations, they asked us whether it was possible to have the crew Covid-19 vaccinated while the ship was at the port.  The ship was leaving the next day for Brazil.  Paul and I had heard that crews on some other cargo ships were getting vaccinated while they were at the port.  So, we contacted the Chamber of Shipping (Chamber) in Vancouver to find out what the procedure was in getting this done. 

The receptionist at the Chamber asked us to e-mail her a list of the crew members who wanted to be vaccinated, and she would assign a temporary personal health number (PHN) to each crew member and e-mail the list back to the ship.  The crew members could then go to the vaccination clinic in North Vancouver, where they would be registered with their PHN’s, and each given a single dose of the vaccine. 

It turned out the entire crew, all 21 of them, who were from the Philippines, wanted to get vaccinated.  The Chamber was very quick in responding with the PHN’s and within an hour after we sent the Chamber the crew list, we received the PHN’s and started ferrying the crew members to the vaccination clinic in the ministry’s minivan, which only allowed us to take 6 passengers per trip.

The whole process of getting everyone to the clinic, vaccinated, and back to the ship took about 4 hours (four trips), because rush hour traffic was starting to build up along the route between the terminal (where the ship was docked) and the clinic. 

But in the end, we managed to get the captain and his entire crew Covid-19 vaccinated. Everyone was very thankful (and extremely happy) to be vaccinated and appreciated our efforts to get the process completed so quickly. 

This is just another day in the life of a port chaplain. And this is why we pray before heading out to visit the ships – at the start of each ship visit, we never know how God will use us to share His love and extend “creative hospitality” to the seafarers that we meet.

Prior to serving as a Chaplain with Outreach Canada, Bill was a professional engineer, working 10 years as superintendent at a large manufacturing plant with over 500 employees, and then 20 years as an engineering consultant managing projects at marine terminals all over the world. He enjoyed the travels and meeting people in different countries. It’s amazing how God is now using Bill in his current chaplaincy ministry, having gone full circle to now serving in the marketplace and at the Port of Vancouver, where he had previously worked as a consultant.

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