Imagine beginning the commute to start your shift in April, packing your things, saying goodbye to your family, all the while knowing that you won't return until January next year.
That's the reality for Bernie Sumayo, a ship's cook on the CMB Rubens and the other 1.5 million seafarers around the globe, the collective Atlas upon which the global economy rests.
When the Mercury meets Mr Sumayo, on board the iron ore bulk carrier docked at Port Kembla harbour, he has just finished preparing a lunch of fish, rice and soup for the 21 seafarers on board.
Having arrived earlier that morning after picking up a shipment of iron ore from Port Latta in north-west Tasmania, the crew are now busily preparing for the cargo to be unloaded, before it is fed into the BlueScope blast furnaces.
One of those involved in the operation is Lord Dela Cruz. Also from the Philippines, this is the fourth ship the 24-year-old has worked on, and he said he is happy to be aboard the CMB Rubens after working on a previous ship marked by "arrogance".
"On this one we have a good relationship."
The able seaman first went offshore at 19, inspired by his father who also worked as a sailor.
Taking just 10 minutes to get his lunch down, Mr Dela Cruz is then back on deck. During the busiest periods, all hands are required on deck, even the ship's cook, if the captain deems it necessary.
Watching the action unfold is chaplain and general manager of the Port Kembla Mission to Seafarers John Kewa.
Mr Kewa has been assisting seafarers who enter the Port Kembla harbour for over a decade, but it wasn't always his calling.
Growing up 3000 metres above sea level in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Mr Kewa didn't see the ocean until he was in his 20s.
While studying to become a Catholic priest in Melbourne in the mid 2000s, Mr Kewa was introduced to the Catholic seafarers welfare organisation, Stella Maris, and offered a job with the organisation.
"I had an agenda in the back of my head, I need the money, whatever stipend they pay, I'll get accommodation, but I'll get a real job later," he said.
"That was 21 years ago, and that hasn't arrived yet."
Mr Kewa then moved to the Mission to Seafarers, an offshoot of the Anglican Church, in Melbourne and then later came to Port Kembla.
Today, with a couple of phone calls, Mr Kewa is able to drive the Mission's bus into the steelworks and up to the dock, and enjoys a similar level of access at the AAT Terminal on the other side of Tom Thumb Lagoon.
This wasn't always the case, and Mr Kewa remembers when there were roadblocks surrounding the port, not the gates where he now swipes his pass. After many cups of coffee - Mr Kewa says the drink is more potent than the Bible at building bridges - that has changed, but it was the COVID lockdowns that really solidified the new, collaborative mindset.
In April 2020, when the Ruby Princess plague ship headed south to Port Kembla after discharging its passengers in Sydney, some reacted with anger, with figures including Keira MP Ryan Park blaming the NSW government for "dumping" its problems on the Illawarra.
But what Mr Kewa saw was 1200 crew members confined to their ship in need of relief.
This saga marked a shift in the way the Mission and the various users in the Port worked together, with the 2022 vaccination drive for seafarers an example of the Mission and the port working together..
Having just returned from a conference in Melbourne with other ports around Australia last week, Mr Kewa had attendees coming up to him and asking what was his secret to getting often warring parties to work together, for the benefit of seafarers.
His answer? A few cups of coffee to start, but he says if a few individuals are willing to make a change, there is a "domino effect of good will".
Testament to this was that earlier this year, one of the Mission's buses which are used to ferry seafarers between he port and the Mission on Darcy Street and various recreation activities was totalled in an accident.
Mr Kewa wrote to his various partners at the port to let them know that the Mission's activities would be limited until they were able to get a new bus.
Only a few hours later, having not asked for a single dollar, Evan Wissell, terminal manager for AAT at Port Kembla rang up to offer $20,000 for a new bus. This was followed by other donations, with the Mission ultimately raising $80,000 for a new bus without asking for a cent. In addition, BlueScope lent the Mission one of its buses, free of charge.
But, all of this goodwill rests upon a few dedicated volunteers, and with numbers dwindling post COVID, the organisation is considering what it can do to remain active with fewer pairs of hands available.
Long-time volunteer Ruth Milne said the people she took to McDonalds restaurants, arranged trips to Sydney for and provided with second-hand clothes and a piece of solid ground to rest their sea-legs were a "forgotten group of people".
"There are over 1.6 million sailors who sail on over 100,000 ships, supplying the world with goods. They're lonely, largely forgotten, and they need love and support," she said.
While a new standard had been set after COVID, and Mr Kewa noted that dodgy ship owners were avoiding Port Kembla due to the visibility of bad practice here, it was volunteers and donations upon which this rested.
"Now is not the time to be complacent," he said. "We don't want to wash our hands and walk away because COVID is over."
In a few days, the CMB Rubens will sail again, setting off for the next stop in the global economic chain. For Mr Sumayo there are only a few more months until he gets to go back home where his child, only one month old when he left, waits to see their father return.
Mr Sumayo hopes that his child will still recognise him when he returns.
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