Roald Evensen, Terje J. Eriksen and Bjørn Lødøen, Velferden – Historien om States Velferdskontor for Handelsflåten. Sofiemyr: Bjørgu Forlag AS, 2017. 194pp.
This is a beautiful pictorial history of the work of the Norwegian Seamen’s Service over the past 70 years. Assembled by three very capable editors – Roald Evensen, Terje J. Eriksen and Bjørn Lødøen – the book charts the activities of Norwegian Seamen’s Service and the seafarers it served from its foundation in 1947, through the boom years of the 1950s – 1970s, to more recent years when Norwegian seafarers’ are less numerous.
A strength of the book is telling the history of the Norwegian Seamen’s Service from many different perspectives. After some short chapters on the foundation of the Seamen’s Service and its key locations and services, come a number of pages of beautiful photos and also stories written by those with personal experience over the years, especially seafarers themselves.
This book is a great companion to other more general literature on the history of shipping globally since the Second World War. Further, it supplements the histories of the many other societies that have worked for seafarers’ welfare in the same ports.
No doubt, one can only imagine that for Norwegian seafarers who sailed in the golden era of Norwegian shipping from 1955 – 1980, this book will be a wonderful trip down memory lane. Pictures and stories from Yokohama, Antwerp, New York or New Orleans, are full of passion and adventure. Yet, the book has a lot to teach younger seafarers and seafarers’ welfare providers from other countries and organizations.
One theme occupies much of the book: the maintenance recreational activities to counter the threat of social isolation among Norwegian seafarers. Whether by book service, films, photo competitions, the Frivakt magazine or sports events, the aim of the Norwegian Seamen’s Service in welfare was to keep the seafarers connected with each other and their home society.
Though the numbers of seafarers’ on Norwegian-flagged vessels has diminished, the issues related to social isolation among seafarers of all countries has only intensified. This book helps us remember the creativity and passion of seafarers’ welfare providers in previous generations and perhaps leaves lessons to be learned for the future.
The layout of the book and its photos are beautiful. Thank you to the editors for bringing together this important work.
Review by Jason Zuidema