World's largest floating book "sanctuary" spreads knowledge, hope

24 Jul 2022 10:55am

VALLETTA, Malta - About 300 people from 60 countries are touring the world on board the largest-ever floating book fair to spread the joy of reading and bring hope and help to the needy.

This is the mission of Logos Hope, a 132-meter-long ship that was placed into service in February 2009.

It entered the Valletta harbor in Malta on July 12, where it is docked until the end of the month for bookworms of different ages to enjoy a world of books.

The crew members, from captains and chefs to those responsible for stacking the thousands of books on board, are all volunteers.

On offer are more than 5,000 titles of books, mostly in English, that cover a wide range of subjects including science, sports, hobbies, cookery, arts, languages and religion. College coursebooks on languages, mathematics, geography and history can also be found on board.

Although officially registered in Valletta, the vessel spends little time there, moving instead from port to port, so that the crew can share knowledge and help local communities, media relations officer Sebastian Moncayo told Xinhua during a tour of the vessel.

Having been a Logos Hope regular since 2019, with a short break to visit his family in his home country Ecuador, 34-year-old Moncayo loves his life on board, meeting people from other countries and cultures.

He recounted how the boat spent the last three months in Las Palmas in Spain where it was first open to the public and then moved to a dock in another part of Spain for its annual maintenance.

Before that, the boat was in west Africa, docking in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia.

After Malta, the boat will sail to Albania and Montenegro in the fall, then may continue its tour further on to Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in the winter.

When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, the crew was not allowed to disembark for 122 days, Moncayo said.

The pandemic also slashed the boat's income, mostly derived from selling books they buy for a fraction of the market price from donors.

An entrance fee of 1 euro (1.02 U.S. dollars) is applicable for visitors aged between 13 and 64.

While in their port of call, the crew usually disembarks to help the local communities through projects with NGOs.

"We want to spread the message of how well different communities can live together," said Moncayo.

"It is the love of books and our fascination for meeting people from different cultures that bring us together. (Our) mission is to spread knowledge and hope, and to help (people), and this is what binds us together," he said.

The ship is operated as part of a non-profit organization, GBA Ships, based in Germany.

Avid reader Christine Ellul, 42, would not miss the opportunity to visit the book fair, and has been there twice so far.

"I went twice, once alone (to have) some peace and quiet and another time with my children," she told Xinhua.

"I read at least one book every week and my children love reading, too." She said the idea of the largest floating book fair was also enticing.

"The kids enjoyed their time on the boat, speaking to the crew and playing games with them. We got off the boat with three bags of books," she added. - XINHUA