In June last year, a Filipino seafarer was airlifted to hospital with severe burns after a fire in the engine room of a tanker off the Whitby coast. As always, AoS stepped in to help: once the ship had docked in Teesport, local port chaplain Tony McAvoy and one of the local volunteers visited the ship and spent time with the crew who were obviously still in a state of shock. One of AoS’s Filipino volunteer ship visitors met the injured seafarer’s wife as she flew in from the Philippines.

Unfortunately, the seafarer died, but in the ensuing days the AoS team continued to provide practical and pastoral support to his wife. Meanwhile the crew of the ship were not forgotten. At the request of the ship’s Captain, AoS arranged for Mass to be celebrated on-board by a local priest, and Tony also offered to take crew members to Mass ashore on the previous Sunday.

“The on board Mass on Monday evening was a moving occasion,” said Tony. “Within the Mass, we all prayed for the deceased man and for the crew and their families.”The priest then blessed the Bridge, the Engine Room and various other parts of the ship. AoS gave prayer cards, rosaries, pictures and crucifixes plus copies of Bible Alive to the crew. Afterwards, over refreshments, we spent time with the Captain and crew chatting; all seemed touched with what had been done, and were, I think, spiritually uplifted.”

Thankfully, such tragic incidents are not frequent, but this case illustrates many of the aspects of the AoS ministry, carried out in 56 ports around the country – the pastoral support which our 14 chaplains give to the crews of ships; the co-ordination with local priests to arrange Mass and sacraments for seafarers; and the additional valuable practical work carried out by our 120 volunteer ship visitors. Last year we also supplied seafarers with 2,500 faith resources and provided chaplains for a number of P&O cruises.

This case study is associated with the charity Stella Maris.