They 'give up a lot' to work on ships

A local retired seafarer is bringing awareness to the importance of the International Day of the Seafarer today, and will hold his own ship model display at 418 University Dr. from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dave Benedet, whose hobby has been building replicas of numerous vessels since 1966, said the day to observe the seafarers was initiated by the International Maritime Organization during the 2010 Diplomatic Conference in Manila. At that time, they also adopted the revised Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW Convention), which he called the "bible" of training, rules and regulations for seafarers.
The port of Thunder Bay has grown substantially from the North American Fur Trade in the 1600s to the first large ship visits in the early 1800s. Since then, thousands of vessels have visited the port, bringing goods and commodities.
Today, the port is a major player on a global scale receiving cargos of grain and steel, along with manufactured mining, wind farm, and agricultural equipment. Potash and other commodities flow to and from the western provinces, Europe and other parts of the world.
"The International Day of the Seafarer observes Thunder Bay as a major port city and a time to be thankful for the ships' crews and their service in the delivery of more than 90 per cent of the world's goods globally," Benedet said.
"I was a seafarer for 40-some-odd years and you give up a lot to work on a ship."
In 2020 the port of Thunder Bay was not immune to the difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Benedet described how the seafarers were not allowed off their ships in the Thunder Bay port.
"Even if it was time for them to go home, they had to stay aboard the ship and some seafarers were onboard their ships for as much as 18 months," he said.
"It became a real issue with the United Nations. A lot of countries just closed their doors and they wouldn't let them go home. On the other hand, people at home, who were ready to come back to work on the ships, couldn't and lost wages."
Benedet's model display will feature several of his works, including bulk carriers, a research vessel, a tugboat and an aggregate carrier.
"Ship number 162 will be on display as well," he said, referring to the 162nd ship that he is currently building.
"It's under construction, but it will give people an idea of what goes into building them. My ships are just like miniature ships with everything inside of them that you find in a real ship, and they float."
Over the years, many of Benedet's replicas were dismantled because he couldn't move the larger ones. Many of them had been donated and the last 13 ship donations were given to the Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay.
"There are a few of them around Thunder Bay," he said. "I have a fella that I call my broker. I give him my surplus models and he finds a home for them."
Benedet remains part of the restoration crew for the transportation museum's Alexander Henry ship. Work continues with the museum board to find a way to safely display the models.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal