The dramatic event of the month was of course the grounding of the MV Smart. She sailed in heavy swells (about 10 M) and unfortunately “bottomed out “in the entrance to the harbour. This caused her engines and rudder to fail and she drifted on to a sand bank outside the entrance to the harbour and eventually broke in two. The harbour police phoned Jaco who in turn contacted Hannes who was on hand to meet the crew who were lifted off the ship a couple hours after she ran aground. Jaco later went to visit the crew who had been accommodated at a local Bed and Breakfast and took some airtime as well as “survival bags” containing toiletries etc. to them. Amazingly these bags had been made up the previous weekend by a group of ladies who had visited the centre as part of their community outreach. They had made up 23 bags the exact number of the crew on board the MV Smart !!!
I contacted Jaco the next day having only discovered the news that morning but at that stage the crew had spoken to both Hannes and Jaco (and eventually Loffie from CSO), and therefore we decided that the crew probably did not need another chaplain asking them how they were doing. While obviously an incident like this is traumatic, the rescue had taken place in day light and by then the weather had also moderated slightly. Only one crew member was slightly injured when the ship struck the seabed when leaving the harbour. Both Jaco and Hannes agreed that the crew therefore did not need major trauma counselling and most returned home within 48 hours of the incident in fairly high spirits. The next day they also received almost all of their personal belongs from the ship. Hannes reported that the crew were extremely grateful to the centre for the assistance and care they received during this time.
We also had a tragic incident when a seafarer fell of the quayside after a night out in town. His body was found the next day floating in the harbour. Jaco conducted a mass on board the vessel and was also able to chat to the Capitan and provide a shoulder to lean on during this difficult time.
We had an unexpected visit from Eura who was a seafarer on the Lady East a ship that was arrested for about 11 months a couple of years ago. I had a few encounters with the crew during their long stay but was greeted with hugs like a long lost friend from this Ukrainian seafarer. It was amazing how grateful this man was for all that the mission had done for him during their long stay in the Port. I was also amazed how in spite of the hardship of living on a vessel for almost a year in terrible conditions he could remember the good times – some of which the mission had a direct hand in creating.
We have had some changes with regards to the personal in the club. Unfortunately our barman had to be dismissed because of a number of issues with regards to his performance and the carrying out of his duties. I was involved in the disciplinary process which of course was not that pleasant. He has been at the club for over 26 years but because of his age he just cannot perform his duties properly. On another sad note Jaco and Marie will also be leaving the centre. Jaco has accepted a call to a church in Bloemfontein and will leave at the end of September. Marie will stay on as manager and leave at the end of December. These are certainly very big shoes to fill as this couple has been so much a part of the mission and of the ministry in the Port. We are in the process of praying and searching God’s heart for suitable replacements.
Thanks again for the support and allowing me to be part of the vibrant ministry in the Port of Richards Bay. Jaco undertook a survey on behalf of MTS which asked seafarers what difference centres and Port Chaplain’s made to their lives. It does seem that seafarers do experience support and care and have a sense that there is someone who is available to help them if they need assistance. It is a privilege to be able to part of this process and ministry.