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Book projects on the State Welfare Office for the merchant fleet

Kong Haakon VII på besøk i den nyopna sjømannsklubben i Glasgow. PA-1209 NTBs krigsarkiv, Ub -59

The State Welfare Office for the Merchant Navy was established in 1947 and aimed at increasing the well-being of seafarers in ports around the world. The Welfare had, at most, more than 200 employees, and among the welfare secretaries there were several profiled athletes like the skating riders Hjalmar Andersen and Fred Anton Maier.

In its glory days, the Welfare had its welfare secretaries placed in virtually all major ports around the world – from Yokohama to London, Galveston, Genoa, Singapore and Abadan. Where Norwegian ships came to load and unload, the Welfare also came with its cultures and leisure facilities. "Fresh" newspapers made everyone run up to the trade fair to secure their local newspaper, either Firda Folkeblad, Altaposten, Stavanger Aftenblad or Asker and Bærum Budstikke. Even two-three months old newspapers were interesting for seafarers in the period before mobile phones and the internet. This was a glory day for letters, welfare visits.

Welfare visits aboard often ended up with a kayak competition on the pier, a fast-paced football team ready for battle against another ship, or the Welfare’s popular coach bus stuck by keen seamen to some cultural attraction. The Welfare took care of everything.

The Welfare was the culture of seafarers, both for soul and mind. Books, movies, trim and well-being.

But the Welfare did not just come on board. They brought people to visit their welfare clubs. Who does not remember Steinrøysa bar in Yokohama, Nordahl Grieg stadium in Antwerp or the Gonzales club? Here you could find swimming pools and international goals of sports facilities, t-bone roast on the grill and cold Norwegian beer in the bar. Or Norway House in San Francisco and Duchy Hotel in London. Wherever the seafarers went, the Welfare was present.

From being an institution for those sailing in the 1950s and 1960s, the Welfare is now coming into oblivion. The need is partly gone and so are the welfare secretaries.

These are characteristics of the Welfare Service for the Merchant Navy – the Welfare - Globusgutta or subdivision for Culture and Leisure at the Norwegian Maritime Directorate we wish to see in our book about the welfare services seen by seafarers.

VELFERDEN applied to the Foundation primarily because the shipping company Anders Wilhelmsen/Awilco probably was the Norwegian shipping company most respected in all aspects of both seaman's rights and welfare on board the ships.

The foundation gave a financial support to help the book go on print and to get the right layout.

The book can be ordered by this mail or by mobile nummer 85180937.

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